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Jobs Report Not a 'Disaster' for Markets

Markets were set up for a disappointing nonfarm payrolls, but it was not a disaster.

January's nonfarm payroll report was within expectations, with a loss of 20,000 jobs. The unemployment rate, which comes from a completely different survey, was 9.7 percent, a 5-month low, down from 10.0 percent, and was a bit of a puzzle.

The key headline are the revisions to prior reports: 1) a large revision downward for December, to 150,000 jobs lost from 85,000 lost previously reported, while November was revised upward by 60,000, and 2) 8.4 million jobs have now been lost since the start of the recession, the previous number was 7.2 million. This last figure was within expectations.

One bit of good news: the work week did climb, .1 hours to 33.3 hours.

The dollar is stronger again this morning.

Elsewhere:

1) Tyson trading up 5 percent pre-open, beat earnings consensus by a wide margin. Chicken volume increased 5.6 percent, beef volume increased 7.2 percent.

2) Con-Way falls 2 percent amid disappointing results. While the trucker sees improved demand (freight tonnage up 20.6 percent), prices remained poor (yields down 14 percent).

More disconcerting - pricing improvements will be difficult ahead. CEO Douglas Stotlar warns that "excess capacity remains a problem" and that "opportunities to improve margin will be difficult."

3) Air Products and Chemicals, a seller of industrial and manufacturing gases, unveiled a hostile bid for competitor Airgas (ARG). Airgas, which provides medical and industrial gases, is soaring 43 percent pre-open on the $60 per share all-cash offer (about a 38 percent premium from yesterday's close). The deal values Airgas at about $7 billion, which includes $1.9 billion in debt.

4) Marriott continues the dividend trend. The hotel chain announced it is reinstating its quarterly dividend ($0.04)after having suspended it for three quarters.

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