The last time the government reported monthly jobs numbers, investors and traders faced a big surprise. In April the U.S. economy added only 266,000 jobs. That was well below expectations for the addition of 1 million jobs in the month.
Waiting for the May jobs report before the open on Friday Wall Street is hoping for a return to something like the run of months before April of 900,000+ plus. I suspect that Wall Street economists would be happy with any number strong enough to suggest that the April plunge was a fluke. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg are projecting that the economy added 650,000 jobs in May.
But after last month’s failure to predict the drop fresh in investors’ minds, no one is rushing to stake out a position either long or short ahead of the data.
Which is one reason why the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell by all of 0.05% today, June 1, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained just 0.13%. The NASDAQ Composite dropped 0.09% and the Big Tech heavy NASDAQ 100 lost 0.23%.
The exceptions to today’s muted moves were the small cap Russell 2000, ahead 1.22%, and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM), up 2.06%.
The Vix “fear index,” the CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index rose 7.22% on the day to 17.97 as at least some investors decided it was worth a buck or two to buy hedges against volatility.
Today’s report of the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing survey added another reason to stay on the sidelines. Manufacturing production in May expanded at the slowest pace in nearly a year, the ISM’s survey of purchasing managers showed. The ISM employment sub-index dropped to a six-month low of 50.9 from 55.1 a month earlier. Whatever the reason, employers are having trouble filling job vacancies. And that doesn’t foreshadow a strong Friday jobs report.
The top line numbers in the ISM report were more positive. Mostly. The survey’s measure of factory activity rose to 61.2 from 60.7 a month earlier. (Readings above 50 indicate expansion.) That was in line with expectations, Orders too rose but as a result order backlogs rose to a fresh high as companies continued to struggle to meet customer orders.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose 1 basis point to 1.61%.