Following an early-session smack-down and a subsequent rally, stocks came right back to terra firma at the close, ending the session essentially flat.
Non-farm payroll data and Middle east posturing were the main catalysts for the early decline, the rally had little catalyst othe than empty reassurances from the president, or Bomber-in-Chief, who, after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his nation would support and defend Syria in the face of any attacks, promised, once again, that strikes against Syria would be measured and brief.
Mr. Obama speaks as if he's planning a family outing of some sort rather than an act of war against a sovereign nation and his posturing and promising is nauseating, misguided and insincere. While the congress dithers over whether to grant him authority - as it must under the War Powers Act - to bomb Syria, a nation that poses no imminent threat to US interests, the president continues to tiptoe toward conflict, one which is likely to inflame parties in an already-tense region.
Market reactions to the president and congress are equally superfluous and without much forethought. To date, the US has done nothing but threaten Syria. If it ever comes to actual bombing, then the market will make up its mind as to whether such actions have consequences for stocks and bonds.
The other contributing factor to today's rocky trade was the August Non-Farm Payroll report which showed the US gaining 169,000 new jobs, well below consensus, and revising June and July data lower. The BLS also advised that the labor force participation rate had fallen again, to 63.2%, a number not seen since 1978, thirty-five years ago.
This item in the BLS calculus continues to plunge, and many, including CNBC's Chief Economist, Steve Liesman, cite the aging baby-boomers retiring as the main culprit, though other economists disagree, and heartily so. The number usually thrown about is that 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day, though, if that were true, there would be something on the order of 300,000 jobs available every month and the labor condition would be booming, but those numbers are not showing up in the NFP reports.
A few of the prominent factors contributing to the lower participation rate are: 1) the coming of Obamacare, which is prompting more and more employers to hire only part-time workers; 2) a reluctance by companies large and small to replace workers lost through attrition or layoffs due to uncertainty in the economy or outright slowdown; 3) the ease by which individuals can qualify for public relief programs such as unemployment insurance, welfare or disability and the generosity of those programs, and; 4) a thriving underground economy of self-employed or off-the-books workers who simply aren't part of the statistical sample. It's been long known that government statistics are wildly faulty and unreliable, and the labor stats simply don't account for the literally millions of Americans who are making ends meet by working around, though or otherwise outside the system, a system which sucks the lifeblood, via taxation and regulation, out of both employers and workers.
The government's statistics may be relied upon by Wall Street investors, but the logic and realism of their assumptions is faulty at best and downright improper at worst. Americans have always found means to an end, and, when the government - all all levels - exerts undue, stifling restrictions upon the citizenry, the people quietly move on without them. Beating back the government by hook or by crook is an American tradition and it will remain that way, so long as people in power feel the necessity to invade every aspect of a citizen's life.
Dow 14,922.50, -14.98 (0.10%)
NASDAQ 3,660.01, +1.23 (0.03%)
S&P 500 1,655.17, +0.09 (0.01%)
NYSE Composite 9,439.66, +19.31 (0.20%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,668,595,250
NYSE Volume 3,384,952,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3718-2834
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 206-54
WTI crude oil: 110.53, +2.16
Gold: 1,386.50, +13.50
Silver: 23.89, +0.636