May 05, 2017
April US Employment Report Upbeat
A review of the week's top global economic and corporate news.
For the week ending 5 May 2017
Global equities extended their gains this week against a backdrop of improved economic growth, particularly in Europe. Slumping commodity prices may prove worrisome down the road, however, with the price of West Texas Intermediate crude falling to nearly a six-month low, ending the week near $45.50, down from $49.00 last Friday. The yield on the US 10-year Treasury note rose modestly, to 2.35%, up 4 basis points on the week. Volatility, as measured by the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX), held steady near 10.
Nonfarm payrolls rebound
Friday’s US employment report was fairly upbeat, with 211,000 added to payrolls in April versus a downwardly revised 79,000 in March. The unemployment rate fell to a 4.4%, a 10-year low, though average hourly earnings were restrained, rising a less-than-expected 2.5%. The report paves the way for likely rate hikes from the US Federal Reserve at its June meeting. The Fed earlier this week held rates steady but said weakness in the US economy in the first quarter was likely transitory.
Macron holds formidable lead ahead of Sunday’s vote
Thirty-nine-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron, seeking elective office for the first time, looks poised to win the French presidency on Sunday. He leads right-wing populist Marine Le Pen by an average of 20 points in opinion polls. The same polls proved quite accurate in the election’s first round, and showed that Macron bested Le Pen in Wednesday’s head-to-head debate. If Macron wins, as expected, two-round parliamentary elections in June will be critical for his fledgling En Marche! party, which will have to cobble together a working majority to allow Macron to govern effectively.
UK–EU divide widens ahead of negotiations
Explosive media reports this week documenting a meeting on 26 April between Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker show just how far apart the two sides are before Brexit negotiations begin in earnest. While the United Kingdom hopes to negotiate the terms of its divorce from the European Union and its future trade relations in parallel, the EU has made clear that exit terms must be well on their way to being ironed out before it will entertain trade talks. Also in dispute is how large a bill the UK will have to foot to exit the EU. Numbers as high as €100 billion were floated in the media this week. Prime Minster May will lead her party into elections on 8 June, so the public spat with the EU this week comes at a fortuitous time for her, as it plays well to the anti-EU faction of the UK electorate.
European economy kicks into gear
Economic growth in the eurozone grew at an annualized pace of 1.8% in the first quarter of 2017, outstripping US growth, which was an anemic 0.7% annualized rate over the same period. Purchasing managers' indices reported this week suggest that European growth might be accelerating further.
Health care reform bill emerges from US House
After months of Republican infighting, a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare emerged from the US House of Representatives this week. The bill will likely face a stiff challenge in the Senate, where lawmakers will attempt to fashion a bill under the so-called reconciliation rule that won’t require 60 votes for consideration. A Senate vote on the measure is expected to be some months away.
Largest-ever US municipal bankruptcy for Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico filed for a form of bankruptcy this week. The territory is weighed down by approximately $75 billion in debt, making the filing the largest in US history. Detroit’s $9 billion filing held the previous record. A decade-long recession, a shrinking population and a dramatically underfunded pension system forced the territory to seek protection from creditors.
As of 3 May, 357 of the 500 constituents of the S&P 500 Index have reported earnings for the first quarter. Earnings are expected to increase 14.2% from a year ago. Stripping out energy, earnings growth is 10%. Revenues for the quarter are expected to increase 7.2%. Ex energy, they are seen up 5.3%. The next-twelve-months earnings estimate for the S&P 500 is 17.7x.
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Sources: MFS research; The Wall Street Journal; The Wall Street Journal Online; Bloomberg News;Financial Times; Forbes.com; CNNMoney.com; NBCNews.com.
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