NFP Undershoots, Markets Unmoved

Last Friday’s NFP data showed a strong undershoot in new US jobs created last month, but markets remain relentlessly focused on US inflation and the virulence of the omicron coronavirus variant.

November 2021 Non-Farm Payrolls Data Release

Last Friday saw the release of the monthly US non-farm payrolls (NFP) data for November 2021. This data is often closely watched by markets for clues as to the state of the US labour market and economy, and as such, the data can influence the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. However, it has been a long time since NFP releases tended to materially move markets, and last week was no exception.

The key headline was the creation of only 210,000 net new jobs, when the consensus forecast by analysts expected as much as 553,000. This was a big undershoot but markets barely reacted. This may be partially because even with such a large undershoot in new jobs, the US unemployment rate fell from 4.5% to 4.2%. Average hourly earnings rose by 0.3% month on month, although 0.4% was expected. The US unemployment rate at 4.2% is at a 21-month low so it can be seen that the US labour market is tightening and that is no surprise as everyone already knows it is. This was the crucial element of the data.


Market Reaction to NFP Data

In a nutshell, markets barely reacted, or at least the price movements following the release were proportionate to the price action already happening in all major assets such as the S&P 500 Index or the US Dollar Index. This is partly because the NFP just is not the key driver of monetary policy that it used to be, and partly because it is soaring US inflation and the Federal Reserve’s reaction to it that is now the fundamental issue of most concern to market analysts.

With the Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell calling to speed up tapering and removing the word “transitory” from his description of the current inflationary situation, markets are going to keep a laser-like focus on next Friday’s US CPI (inflation) data, which is very likely to trigger a major move in the markets even if it comes in at the widely expected month on month increase of 0.7%.

What Does This Mean for Traders?

Traders should ignore the NFP data and, at least until Friday’s release of US CPI (inflation) data, trade in line with market sentiment. Prevailing market sentiment is risk-off, meaning stocks, commodities, and commodity currencies and the British Pound are likely to be weak, while the Japanese yen, Swiss franc, and US dollar are likely to be strong. This will probably continue until positive news about the omicron coronavirus variant begins to emerge and will be overshadowed during Friday’s New York session by the inflation data in any case. Of course, it is possible that bad news may begin to emerge regarding the virulence of omicron, and this will be likely to increase risk-off flow.

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