Shares Stuck Between Jobs, Oil
Stocks and bonds finished Thursday virtually unchanged, as all attention focused on the coming payrolls report. Wall Street is expecting a good number: 225,000 jobs added in February is the consensus forecast with whisper numbers going even higher.
The Street has been notoriously high in estimates over the past year as colleague Mike Marino and RealMoney.com contributor Barry Ritholtz have pointed out. But this may be the month the Street's analysts finally get to cash in all those job-growth chips they've been piling up.
That's because one of the best forward employment indicators, the Institute for Supply Management's index of nonmanufacturing employment, rose to its highest level since 1997, the group said on Thursday.
But the ISM report didn't help stocks much as oil prices rose briefly over $55. For a second day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average couldn't hold early gains. It peaked intraday at 10,869.17, eclipsing its 52-week intraday high, but closed at 10,833.03, up 0.2%. The S&P 500 peaked at 1215.72 and closed at 1210.47, up less than 1 point. The Nasdaq Composite brought up the rear, fading after peaking early at 2074.71 to close at 2058.40, down 0.4%. The yield on the 10-year note was just about unchanged at 4.38%.The bond market is already expecting a pretty strong number and probably has more upside potential if the number comes in low. The logic for stocks is less obvious, with a high number potentially leading to more Federal Reserve rate hikes. The best scenario for stocks continues to be the so-called Goldilocks result, or job growth just a little less than forecast but still keeping the economy -- and the consumer -- moving forward.
Working on JobsThe ISM's employment index spiked to 59.6, the highest reading since the survey began, from 52.2 in January. Notably, the January surprise drop in the employment component foreshadowed less-than-expected payrolls growth that month.
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