NEW YORK (
) -- Friday's session is all about the April jobs report.
It's really as simple as that. The current consensus is for nonfarm payrolls to have swelled by 162,000 last month, according to
. Excluding the impact of government employment changes, nonfarm private payrolls are pegged at 167,000. The unemployment rate is seen hovering at 8.2%.
Meeting those expectations would be a step in the right direction after March's dismal 120,000 performance, but Wall Street's confidence has been shook. The Automatic Data Processing report on Wednesday was well short, and while a lot of lip service is paid to the ADP data being unreliable, traders seem loathe to ignore it this time around. After all, the solid read on weekly initial jobless claims Thursday morning was only good about three minutes of positive trading before all three major U.S. equity indices sank below the flat line.
Right now, it feels like where April's number comes in is really anyone's guess. The recent data has been that hard to draw any conclusions from.
UBS offered up a tidbit of hope for the bulls on Thursday, noting the ADP data has been "much weaker" than the official government numbers in April the past two years.
"In 2011, the ADP initial reading was 179k, BLS
Bureau of Labor Statistics initially reported 268k," the firm said. "In 2010, the ADP initial print was 32k and the BLS initial print 231k. The two misses averaged 144k. For comparison, the average miss in other months (excluding April) was 63k in 2010 and 2011."
UBS is looking for a "180k rise in private payrolls, 170k in total, and theunemployment rate ticking down to 8.1%" so it's confident Wall Street is in for a positive surprise.
Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at
High Frequency Economics
, though is less confident, forecasting a fairly big miss because he thinks the ADP data will be closer to the mark.
"ADP is the best single indicator of the official number on a month-to-month basis, so we have to take it seriously," he wrote in commentary late Thursday. "It is not guaranteed to be right, not least because the official number is accurate to within plus or minus 100K or so, but it is the best we have. It suggests payrolls rose only about 125K."
On the bright side, Shepherdson is looking for the unemployment rate to tick down to 8.1%. The pessimistic view of the decline in the unemployment rate from 9.1% in August to 8.2% last month is that this is reflective of a declining participation rate, people giving up on looking for jobs and dropping out of the workforce.
Shepherdson, though, believes this is only part of the story and argues that even if the economy's slow improvement kickstarts participation, the unemployment rate should continue to fall.
We expect participation now to rise gradually in response to the upturn in GDP," he said. "That means job growth won't feed one-for-one into declining unemployment but we do not expect soaring participation to impose an unusually severe braking on the decline in unemployment. We still expect a rate near 7-1/2% by the end of the year."
own estimate is for nonfarm private payrolls to come in at 145,000.
As for the rest of Friday's scheduled news, there's a quarterly report expected from
, which seems sure to stir up another round of succession talk after Warren Buffett's announcement in mid-April that he's being treated for prostate cancer.
Other notable companies opening their books include
Church & Dwight
Estee Lauder Cos.
Madison Square Garden
was the big mover in Thursday's extended session, surging nearly 9% after the business social networking company
for its first quarter.
The company also gave a bullish forecast for the current quarter and said it's agreed to acquire privately held SlideShare, a service that allows professionals to share presentations, for $118.75 million in cash and stock.
The stock was last quoted at $119.15, up $9.74, on volume of 1.46 million, according to
. Based on Thursday's regular-session closing price of $109.41, LinkedIn shares were up nearly 70% so far in 2012, and have appreciated more than 140% from their IPO pricing at $45 each.
And let's not forget that the
will be a major subject tomorrow. The debate will likely take on a Goldilocks feel with pundits weighing in on whether the valuation will prove to be too high, too low, or just right.
Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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