Jobs data pitted against growth, but one trumps the other

A help wanted sign is placed in the window of Veronica M clothing store in Pasadena, California.
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A help wanted sign is placed in the window of Veronica M clothing store in Pasadena, California.

In the battle for relevance, U.S. jobs figures are locking horns with U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

Both beat expectations by a mile on Wednesday, but are they game changers for the Federal Reserve? I'll make this simple: the Fed is focused on employment. Therefore, ADP is the more important number.

The ADP number, at 200,000 was stronger than expected and the 10-year Treasury yield moved up about 4 basis points, to 2.67 percent.

Second quarter growth, at 1.7 percent, was stronger than expected, yet the results are clouded because of all the noise around benchmark revisions.

They make major revisions in the data every five years, but the numbers changed go back to the Great Depression. Line items have changed: for example, Business investment went from 1.6 percent in Q1 (year over year gain) to 4.1 percent. That's a big jump, but it's because they have changed how they treat research & development (R&D) expenses: they are now treated as an element of GDP and are added to Business Investment.

Wonky? Yes, I know, but it makes the numbers harder to interpret.

While many traders are hopeful the Fed will say NOTHING new in its FOMC statement today because Fed chief Ben Bernanke does not have a press conference to parse his own words. Still, the pragmatists think the Fed will at least give an indication of whether the tapering process will begin in September.

It almost makes me wish we had the jobs report on Friday before the Fed meeting.


1) Auto industry rebound: while the GDP revisions are causing some confusion, not so hard to interpret is the line item for "Recreational goods and vehicles;" in other words, auto sales. That category was up 12.4 percent compared to last year, more proof —if you needed it — that the auto industry is back, big-time.

Just take a look at Delphi Automotive, which beat on top and bottom line. Given up for dead a few years ago, it went public again in late 2011; the stock has almost tripled since then. The stock will trade down because Q3 estimates were below consensus.

2) Hotel rates keep going up: I noted Monday that rental car rates were higher this year than last (I have personally felt it). Today, Hyatt reported a strong beat on top and bottom line, and CEO Mark Hollamazian went out of his way to say, in clipped language, that rates have been going up. He cited "ongoing positive trends in transient demand at U.S. hotels, and strong average daily rate progression."

3) Credit card usage keeps increasing. Everyone complaining about lack of revenue growth, but not at MasterCard. A big beat on top and bottom line, MA at an historic high. Revenue was up 15 percent (!). CEO Ajay Banga noted "increases in volume and transactions in all regions of the world, despite slow economic growth globally." I hear they were talking about 20 percent earnings growth on the conference call.

By CNBC's Bob Pisani

  • Bob Pisani

    A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.