By Carlos Guillen
Equity markets are on a second session of declines as investors continue to digest Friday's jobs number and also take a look at the World Bank's reduced economic growth forecasts for China.
As we saw this past Friday, the unemployment rate in March was left constant at 6.7 percent, but landed worse than the Street's consensus of 6.6 percent. The household survey showed that those employed increased by a whopping 476,000 while those unemployed increased by 27,000. The fact that both figures increased at the same rate led to a flat result in the unemployment rate. However, the positive aspect of the data was that the unemployment rate was unchanged in spite of the fact that 331,000 workers moved into of the civilian labor force and 172,000 were added to the population. We should note that last year the unemployment rate improved from 7.9 percent to 6.7 percent, but it was mostly the result of workers moving out of the work force to the tune of 2.94 million, but so far into the first three months of this year, 779 million workers have returned to the work force. This has not reversed the unemployment rate, meaning that the labor market has been able to absorb the reentering workers as well as the addition to population. How much longer this dynamic hold-up can go on is difficult to say, but we can certainly expect to see a strong component in the direction of a higher unemployment rate for this year.
On top of rethinking the latest jobs numbers, investors also looked at yet another reduction to economic growth expectations for China. As it stands, the World Bank lowered its 2014 forecast for Chinese gross domestic product growth to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent. The new 2014 outlook reflects the rather rough start to this year's industrial production and exports. On the positive side, the World Bank did show some confidence in growth during the latter half of this year as external demand from the high-income countries solidifies.
It is also worth mentioning that Moody's Investors Service cut Ukraine's government-bond rating on Friday, citing the escalation of a political crisis tied to a conflict over its Crimea region, which was annexed last month by Russia.
In all, the malaise that began on Friday is continuing today. At the moment the Dow is down over 130 points, on top of the 159 points that was lost on Friday. Tomorrow marks the start of earnings season with Alcoa reporting after the close of the trading session. So far, earnings growth expectation for the S&P 500 remain fairly robust, so it is not too farfetched to say that the recent market pull back may not be justified, and we can expect a strong move to the upside.