A Return To Normal

After the big jump in October payrolls, a more normal gain is expected.

Fed chair Janet Yellen testifies before Congress today, but it’s not likely she will have any surprises for the market. Yellen spoke yesterday before the Economic Club of Washington, and she didn’t save anything for today’s Joint Economic Committee appearance. Yellen was firm about the December rate cut. She also said it was important the Fed not risk appearing to be behind the curve if inflation awakens.

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Although we know what Yellen’s prepared remarks for Congress will be for the most part, there is always the chance that some twists could come from the Q&A. Traders are hoping to hear soothing words about the probably pace of future rate increases.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 269,000 from 260,000. Nothing new about low jobless claims. After Thursday morning’s Factory Orders and the Non-Manufacturing ISM index are released, traders will buckle things down in preparation for tomorrow’s jobs report. Economists are guessing nonfarm payrolls will rise by 190,000.

This month’s number isn’t as important as last month’s report. The big jump in October payrolls virtually locked in a rate increase. Tomorrow’s number could be 150,000 or even slightly lower without raising any skepticism about the path for the Fed. We also need to be on alert for any big revisions to October’s surprisingly large gain. Finally, traders will be looking closely at the hourly wage component. After October’s big jump, a return to a more normal 0.2% gain is expected. Anything above that would set off alarm bells.

Dwight Johnston is the chief economist of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues and president of Dwight Johnston Economics. He is the author of a popular commentary site and is a frequent speaker at credit union board planning sessions and industry conferences.

December 3, 2015

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