It's been a volatile week in the market. While the market and most of the broader indexes-- like the S&P 500 and its tracking exchange traded fund, SPY (SPY)-- showed gains for the week, the sell-off on Monday tested a lot of key stocks in the sectors that have led the market rally like big cap tech and the financials.
Indeed, while JP Morgan (JPM) and Citigroup (C) each reported strong earnings several weeks ago, these stocks have lagged the broader indexes since the negative news on Spain's continued debt problems once again showed the limits of LTRO. Apple (AAPL) also sold-off nearly 15% prior to reporting yet another strong earnings report late in the week.
Given the strong individual reports that companies are giving, the question still remains-- will the jobs data in the U.S. pick up? I think the importance of this question is being overstated in the short-term, and I would buy on any significant weakness from the April jobs report that is due out Friday.
Obviously, in the long-term, the U.S. economy gets nearly two-thirds of its revenues from consumer spending, so an improvement in hiring will eventually be necessary for the U.S. economy to continue to recover. However, in the short-term, profit levels of most companies continue to be strong, with generally strong earnings growth by leading companies in the financial and industrial sector, like Citigroup (C) and GE (GE) . Citigroup recently reported 7% revenue growth year-over-year, while GE reported double digit organic revenue growth in its industrial division, and 4% revenue growth year-over-year, stripping out its NBC universal performance from last year.
Indeed, interest rates remain low, and the Fed and Treasury department continues to support the ECB and eurozone efforts to manage the eurozone debt crisis. The recent reports of the large U.S. banks showing significant recent increases in credit and debit card transactions also suggest the U.S. consumer is strong.
The main reason equities have sold-off significantly over the last couple months is because of the negative news coming out of Europe. While the European credit crisis is frequently talked about as a separate issue, it's obvious from the earnings reports of the major U.S. Banks-- like Citigroup and JP Morgan-- that the European economy is very weak as well.
Citigroup and JP Morgan reported historically low merger and acquisitions in Europe in the first quarter, and Citi, which has the biggest exposure to Europe of the U.S. financials, reported similar weakness within its consumer branches in the eurozone. Some of the leading U.S. companies that have traditionally been strong in Europe, like GM, have recently also reported miserable earnings in this region. Europe's equity markets have also significantly underperformed nearly all the major indexes.
As we can see, German stocks have underperformed the S&P 500 by nearly 30% since last summer. With the eurozone debt crisis and the weakness in the European economy weighing heavily on equity markets, a weak jobs report should continue to pressure Geithner and the Fed to continue to lend financial support to the ECB and the eurozone economies.
Also, since the eurozone is China's biggest customer, and China's economic recovery remains fragile, the IMF will likely continue to be aggressively involved in the European debt crisis as well.
To conclude, while the size and timeframe with which operation LTRO was implemented remain limited, the Fed and Treasury will likely need political cover to take new and aggressive actions to backstop the ECB and eurozone economies in an election year. Given that a number of recent jobs reports have been negative, such as the disappointing March Challenger jobs report, it is also likely the market has already priced in low expectations for employment numbers moving forward in the near-term.