Let’s see what we have to deal with today; Sovereign debt problems in Greece continue to hold Euro zone hostage, massive short in our mortgage backed securities paper has traders scrambling, economic news such as Productivity, Factory Orders, Unemployment Claims, and Pending Home Sales, Treasury auction supply coming next week, and tomorrow’s weather skewed Employment Report due out at 7:30 am cst. Just another day at the salt mine.
Weekly Unemployment Claims fell 27K to 469K as seasonal factors and the weather related snafu has everyone guessing is this real or Memorex. The big picture points to the percentage of eligible people receiving unemployment benefits being 3.5%, well above the reading that creates jobs. Seems to us that unemployment is stabilizing albeit at higher levels. Not the makings of a vibrant economy.
Pending Home Sales looked like a Rottweiler as well, falling 7.6% in January. Economists were looking for a plus 1.0% print. Once again, the NAR Chief Lawrence Yun blames the weather for affecting home shopping. Maybe we’ll get a clear read in July. For the record, all regions were in the red with the West falling 13.2%. Did it snow in California?
Factory Orders were up 1.7% with the ex-transportation up .1%. A 15% gain in transportation orders did this trick for this number. Maybe new accelerator parts for Toyota. Productivity gains were off the chart, rising 6.9%. The flip side was a drop in labor costs of 5.9%. We are putting computers to work, not Joe the Plumber. All of the above has flattened the yield curve with the 10 year note up 4/32’s and the bond plus 13/32’s.
One positive here is that until we work through this massive off sides market position in MBS, mortgage pricing will be supported, helping to keep pricing stable. I’m going to give you our best guess on tomorrow’s jobs data.
Expectations for the February Employment Report are as follows;
1) Non-Farm Payrolls – Minus 50K
2) Unemployment – Rate 9.8%
3) Hourly Earning – Plus .2 month on month
4) Average Work Week – Minus .2
As we have been talking about, the weather is going to make a mess of the numbers. We expect continued job losses in manufacturing, construction, and private services payrolls. Construction should be hit the hardest, probably losing another 50K. Consensus workers are a wild card as the government is expected to ramp up hiring, adding 1.2 million short term workers over time.
Using one standard deviation and a dart board, our bias is for 100k in job losses and a 9.9% unemployment rate. JPMorgan has the call at minus 90K and 9.9%, Barclays at Minus 75K and 9.8%, Wells Fargo at minus 80k and 9.7%, and Credit Suisse the outlier at minus 125K and 9.9%. If there is a miss, it will be towards more job losses than less. You may recall that I wrote about John Ryding call that job losses would be minus 250K. Don’t know if he is right but I do know he’s a pretty sharp dude. What will the market do? Most likely blow the numbers off due to distortions in the weather but trade nonetheless in a volatile fashion. Once the dust settles, we would expect that pricing will be close to today’s levels “unless” the number is below expectations.
Let’s say we see a -25K or unchanged print. We feel the market would interpret that to be much better than expected once you factor in the weather distortion. Really, this one is a crap shoot. Technically, we’re not getting much help as the 10 year note chart has formed a triangle pattern on the daily time frame. We would need to close below 3.45% to turn this into a raging bull (currently 3.61%) so not much help there. Triangle patterns typically wind themselves up, tighter and tighter before a break out occurs. Given the distance in basis points for a bullish outcome, we would side with a break out to higher yields/ worsening mortgage pricing to coincide with the ending of the short squeeze in the MBS market. To put this in English and cut to the chase, be careful out in the days ahead.