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What to watch in markets for the week ahead: After G-20, focus shifts to jobs report

Key Points
  • After the G-20's trade headlines are out of the way, investor focus will shift to what could be the biggest news of holiday-shortened week ahead — Friday's June employment report.
  • The report could be an important litmus reading on when and how much the Fed could move on interest rate cuts, particularly after last month's disappointing report showed a steep drop in job creation, resulting in new expectations for rate cuts.
  • Other economic data will also be important, after weak numbers at the end of the second quarter drove forecasts for growth below 2%.
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The monthly jobs number is always important but this time, it could be even bigger news, since it may actually help tell us how much the Fed will cut interest rates this summer.

The report won't be the only bit of data the Fed will look at before it meets July 30-31, but it could show whether the economy has hit a weak enough streak in hiring that the Fed will want to act.

Economists expect that 158,000 jobs were created in June, up sharply from the disappointing 75,000 in May, according to Refinitiv. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 3.6% and average hourly earnings are expected to rise by 0.3%.

"It's going to be better than last month. Otherwise, we've got a problem," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief economist at Natixis Americas. "We're saying it's something like 130,000. If it's weak, the markets are going to assume the Fed's going 50 [basis points]. If you have a number in June, like you had in May, they would go 50."

After the weekend's G-20 headlines, the jobs report is the big focus for markets in the coming week, along with OPEC's two-day meeting Monday and Tuesday. OPEC is widely expected to extend 1.2 million barrels a day in production cuts in a deal with Russia, and oil isn't expected to react much, unless there's a surprise.

Markets also kick off the third quarter in the holiday-shortened Fourth of July week, after one of the best first halves in more than 20 years for stocks.

The jobs report follows some other important data in the coming week, and comes as the slowing in the economy is taking a worrisome turn and beginning to hit some of the consumer-related data. A lagging indicator, the jobs data may provide some guidance on the well-being of consumers, which drive about 70% of the U.S. economy.

Both consumer confidence and consumer sentiment readings in June were weaker amid concerns about trade. Consumer spending increased just 0.2% in May, leading some economists on Friday to slash their expectations for both consumption in the second quarter and second quarter economic growth. J.P. Morgan economists trimmed their second quarter GDP forecast to 1.5% from 1.9%

The economy now exits the second quarter, and first half of the year, with some big doubts hanging over the outlook. That makes some of the data in the coming week, the first week of the third quarter, even more relevant. For instance, ISM manufacturing and PMI manufacturing data are released Monday. Both are important to the outlook or the manufacturing sector, which has been weak. Car sales are released Tuesday, and they will also be an important look into manufacturing and the consumer.

"If the jobs number is good but let's say the CPI and retail sales data turns out to be a lot softer, or GDP revised meaningfully down, it's not just employment. The possibility of the Fed doing more than 25 [basis points] does not end with the employment report," LaVorgna said.

The May jobs report was an important turning point for markets, changing the minority view of some economists that the Fed could cut interest rates into a consensus expectation. But that consensus has not settled on when and how much the Fed will chop rate.

The Fed signaled after its June meeting that it was leaning toward a cut, exiting its neutral posture, and that it could act soon if it had to.

So the jobs report, "is important for better or worse. The market's been bullying the Fed for the last couple of decades and if anything, it's gotten even more powerful. If it's weak, the market is going to push them to do more, but the Fed will be fearful of disappointing the market. They'll also be fearful the economy is weak against the backdrop of trade uncertainty," said LaVorgna.

At this point, fed funds futures are pricing in a full quarter-point rate cut for the July meeting and a portion of a second cut. Economists mostly expect two cuts this year, whether starting in July or September, with another likely by either September or December.

Calendar for the week ahead (times ET)

Monday

9:45 a.m. Manufacturing PMI

10 a.m. ISM manufacturing

10 a.m. Construction spending

Tuesday

Monthly auto sales

6:35 a.m. New York Fed President John Williams in Zurich, Switzerland

11 a.m. Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester in London

Wednesday

Early NYSE close

8:15 a.m. ADP employment

8:30 a.m. Initial claims

8:30 a.m. International trade

9:45 a.m. Services PMI

10 a.m. Nonmanufacturing ISM

10 a.m. Factory orders

Thursday

Independence Day

markets closed

Friday

8:30 a.m. Employment report