Friday, August 7, 2009

Jobs Data Sends US Equities Rocketing Higher

An hour prior to the opening bell, the first really strong message that the US economy might actually be entering a recovery appeared in the form of the US Labor Department's July Non-farm Payroll Report, which showed the loss of jobs declining to its lowest level since August 2008. The number of jobs gone begging in July was -247,000, well below the estimated 325-350,000 which had been predicted. The unemployment rate actually fell, due to shrinkage in the total labor pool, down to 9.4%, from 9.5% in June.

Investors cheered the news, at one point sending the Dow Jones Industrials up over 150 points. Afternoon trading trimmed some of the gains, but it was the best showing for stocks in two weeks and the 4th straight week of improvement on the major indices.

The NASDAQ surpassed the magic 2000 mark, while the S&P 500 leaped over 1000. The Dow closed at its highest point since November 4, 2008 (9625.28). Nothing more than continued improvement in employment was needed to send stocks on a tear. If payrolls continue to be slashed at ever-smaller rates, month-over-month, that will be absolutely the tonic the US economy needs to begin a growth path and for companies to eventually begin hiring. The creation of American jobs is the #1 issue facing the economy and the news of the day put a positive tint on the entire labor picture.

Dow 9,370.07, +113.81 (1.23%)
NASDAQ 2,000.25, +27.09 (1.37%)
S&P 500 1,010.48, +13.40 (1.34%)
NYSE Composite 6,586.71, +69.04 (1.06%)

Advancing issues finished well ahead of decliners in the broad-based rally, 4749-1729, while new highs continued to sprout up, numbering 210 on the day, as compared to just 79 new lows. The only small negative was volume, which tracked a bit slower than the previous two down sessions, though not considerably. With the amount of fund money still in hiding, there still seems to be a mood of caution, though Monday may prove to be a test of how long investors are willing to watch profits slip by before taking the plunge back into stocks.

NYSE Volume 1,484,737,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,345,724,000

Commodities were almost uniformly priced lower, with September light crude losing $1.01, to $70.93 and gold slipping $3.40, to $959.50. Silver bucked the trend, gaining 2 cents, to $14.67.

The jobs data was about as positive a sign investors have seen since the depths of the financial crisis in the Fall of 2008 and Winter of 2009. Credit for averting a major economic catastrophe must be awarded to Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve, for the unorthodox methods used to pump money into the US economy through a variety of means.

While the lasting affects of the Fed's many moves are still unknown, it's nearly certain that their actions helped keep the economy of not only the US, but the entire world, from falling off a cliff.

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