4 Highlights from the February NFP Report

Another non-farm payrolls (NFP) release has come and gone, so now it’s time to break down the details! Why exactly did the dollar fail to show a strong rally anyway? Here are four major points to consider before you make your forex trades.

1. Strong headline numbers

The headline NFP showed that an net of 242,000 workers had found jobs in the non-farm sectors in February, higher than an expected 190,000 net addition. Not only that, but December and January’s figures were also adjusted to reflect 30,000 more jobs than previously reported.

The additional jobs helped keep the unemployment rate to an eight-year low of 4.9% even as labor participation rate jumped to 62.9%, its third consecutive monthly increase. Yowza!

2. NFP report’s sore spot: EARNINGS

The dark cloud, the pebble in the shoe, the pain in the butt for dollar bulls, is the earnings part of the NFP report. See, both average hours worked and average weekly earnings declined despite the minimum wage increases in a couple of states.

Average hourly earnings slipped by 0.1% in February, its first decline since December 2014. Market players had expected a 0.3% increase following January’s 0.5% uptick. Meanwhile, the average workweek fell from 34.6 to 34.4 hours, the lowest in two years. Not exactly a good picture for the Fed, which is looking at salary growth to protect the service sector and consumer spending parts of the GDP.

3. Industry breakdown

Listed below is a breakdown of the industries’ contributions to February’s job creation. Take note that health care and social assistance, retail trade, and private educational services led the pack while the mining and manufacturing industries continued to shed jobs.

Education and health services: +86,000
Trade, transportation, and utilities: +53,000
Leisure and hospitality: +48,000
Professional and business services: +23,000
Construction: +19,000
Information: +12,000
Financial activities: +6,000
Manufacturing: -16,000
Mining and logging: -18,000

4. Dollar reaction

The Greenback spiked higher at the release of the NFP, but the rally soon petered out once investors had a second look at the lackluster earnings growth and continued weaknesses in the manufacturing and mining industries.

U.S. Dollar Index: 15-Minute Forex Chart

U.S. Dollar Index: 15-Minute Forex Chart

What’s next for the Fed?

It’s a waiting game for the dollar bulls and bears. While the latest set of jobs numbers have somewhat quieted whispers of an imminent recession, the figures weren’t brilliant enough to bring back speculation of a Fed rate hike anytime soon.

Recall that market players are concerned that weaknesses in China and other major economies could spread to the world’s largest economy and inspire the Fed to hold off any more rate hikes. Right now, many are expecting a rate hike no earlier than Q4 2016, with some casting their lots for a June rate hike.

Until we see consistent growth in job creation and improvement in wages though, then the Fed will likely stick to its wait-and-see rhetoric and avoid any commitment to raise its rates. The question is, how long can the Fed wait before the calls for a rate hike become too loud to ignore?

How about you? Do you think the latest NFP figures are enough to inspire another rate hike this year?

  • James Moore

    Great article, I was unaware that the greenback dip after the initial report was due to not only the poor earnings growth but also lackluster manufacturing figures. Is manufactoring likely to remain a week spot in the U.S economy or do you predict any resurgence in the oil porice over the coming month?

    • Hi James! Thanks for reading my write-up. And yep, manufacturing is likely to remain a weak spot for a while, but the weakness is mainly due softer overseas demand since domestic demand is actually pretty robust.

      As for oil, it’s pretty hard to say. The current rally, for example, is driven mainly by cutbacks in U.S. oil production and heavy speculation that a deal to curb oil output will finally push through by March 20 or thereabouts, but there hasn’t been a significant pick up from the demand side of the equation just yet and the deal to freeze oil output is gonna be tricky since Iran seems dead set on ramping up its oil output.

  • Hi Sam! Thanks for the compliment and thanks for the link! Hope to see ya around!

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