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“Today is Valentine’s Day — or, as men like to call it, Extortion Day!” – Jay Leno
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Given the lack of major economic data last week, investors have had their sights set on the January jobs report ever since the January employment report earlier in the month. Well, the day is finally here. The consensus was for an acceleration from December’s rate, which was a decline of 0.1%. The 9% surge in gas prices during January alone would suggest an increase of 0.5%, which coincidentally is right where consensus forecasts had settled heading into the report. It’s also exactly where the report came in. Ex Food and Energy, the reading came in at 0.4% which was also right in line with forecasts. The only issue was the y/y readings which both also came in higher than expected.
While a 0.5% m/m increase is red meat for the headline writers to paint a narrative of inflation starting a new leg higher, the fact that it’s also right where consensus expectations are means that it was priced into the report. Also, with interest rates rising leading up to the report last week, one could argue that many investors were gearing up for an even stronger number. The market reaction so far has been indecisive. After originally erasing all of the pre-market gains, futures rebounded back above where they were heading into the report, and have now once again erased those gains. All in the span of nine minutes! Interest rates have been moving in the opposite direction. CPI loves me, CPI loves me not.
As far as the market is concerned, CPI reports have taken on an added significance in the last year as we have seen heightened volatility on CPI days. Over the last year, the S&P 500’s average daily move on CPI days has been a gain or loss of 1.94%, which is a level of volatility last seen back during the financial crisis. As shown in the chart below, there’s been a shift within the trend of volatility, though. From February to July of last year, the S&P 500 declined on CPI days for six straight months and was down for seven out of eight straight months from February to September. Since October, though, there have been four straight months where the S&P 500 rallied on CPI days. Not only that, but the degree of volatility is also showing what could be an early sign of abatement as there have been two months in a row where the one-day change on a CPI day was less than 1%.
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