HIRING PICKS UP IN MARCH: After a February lull, hiring picked up again in March. The U.S. economy added 196,000 jobs and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.8%. The Labor Force Participation Rate ticked down (it has been in a tight range for about six years now). Wages in March were 3.2% higher than in March of 2018. Because February had been such a dismal month for hiring, March’s report eased concerns about the labor market, which has been a bright spot. Meanwhile, the amount of people who filed new claims for unemployment on the week that ended March 30 was only 202,000. That is the lowest amount since December 1969.
CHINA AND U.S. WRAP UP ANOTHER ROUND OF TRADE TALKS: The lastest round of trade talks between the U.S. and China wrapped up with no clear indication of a timeline for resolution. However, both sides touted progress, which markets liked.
ECONOMIC ACTIVITY STILL HEALTHY: According to the Conference Board, the U.S. Leading Economic Indicators rose in February 0.2%, the first rise since September. The improved reading in February was spurred by higher stock prices, lower interest rates and improved access to credit. Gains in those areas offset weaker job creation and a somewhat higher, though still-low, level of layoffs. Six of the ten components that compose the leading index rose in February.
QUIET TRADING AND RISING VALUES: In the last week or so, trading volumes on the U.S. stock exchanges have been at their lowest levels of the year. Without a main culprit, stock prices have been rising. The S&P 500 has been up for seven straight trading days. This past week, a positive jobs report and the China/US trade talk activity kept investors in a buying mood. Once again, watch for first quarter earnings reports as those are likely to move markets one way or another as that will represent hard data on whether these corporate stocks are worth what investors are paying. If growth data undergirds the current price rise, this ride will likely continue. If not, the current serenity will end.
BREXIT DRAMA CONTINUES: Brexit is set to occur on April 12, and there is no trade deal on the table that the UK Parliament will agree to. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has asked for an extension to June 30. All 27 countries have to agree, and it is looking like they will. And so the drama will continue.