Federal Reserve decision, October jobs report: What to know this week

The Federal Reserve’s forthcoming monetary policy meeting will be in focus this week, and may set the stage for a long-awaited announcement of asset-purchase tapering. Meanwhile, traders will also await more data on the U.S. economic recovery with the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report later this week. 

The Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) November meeting will take place from Tuesday to Wednesday, with the policy statement and press conference from the meeting serving as the central bank’s penultimate opportunity this year to announce formal plans to begin rolling back its crisis-era quantitative easing program. For the past year-and-a-half, the central bank has been purchasing $120 billion per month in agency mortgage-backed securities and Treasuries, as one major tool to support the economy during the pandemic. 

In late September, the FOMC’s latest monetary policy statement and press conference from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell suggested the central bank was apt to announce the start of tapering before year-end, and continue the tapering process until “around the middle of next year.”

“The upcoming FOMC meeting will be important for three reasons: 1) the announcement of tapering; 2) guidance around what tapering means for the path of hikes; and 3) nuanced changes in views around inflation risks given recent data,” wrote Bank of America economist Michelle Meyer in a note.

“The statement that announces the new pace of asset purchases will be followed by a note regarding flexibility stating that asset purchases are not on a pre-set course and will depend on the outlook for the labor market and inflation as well as an assessment of the efficacy of asset purchases,” she predicted. 

She noted that Powell may also use the press conference to reiterate that the end of tapering would not necessarily indicate the start of rate hikes, and that both policy actions are distinct. In previous public remarks, Powell has already made a similar point in previous public remarks, saying, “the timing and pace of the coming reduction in asset purchases will not be intended to carry a direct signal regarding the timing of interest rate liftoff.” 

Given the market has been anticipating the start to tapering for months now, speculation around when the Fed will make a move on interest rates has become a point of particular interest to investors. Investors and economists have mulled whether the Fed may need to act more quickly than previously telegraphed on adjusting interest rates to stave off inflation, which has proven more long-lasting than some had suggested.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on September 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Powell and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are testifying about the CARES Act and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 24: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on September 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Powell and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are testifying about the CARES Act and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In September, core personal consumption expenditures — the Fed’s preferred gauge of underlying inflation — rose 3.6% over last year for a fourth consecutive month, coming in at the fastest clip since 1991. And earlier this month, Powell acknowledged in public remarks that the supply chain constraints and shortages that spurred the latest rise in prices are “likely to last longer than previously expected, likely well into next year.” 

While the central bank will not release an updated Summary of Economic Projections with their policy statement on Wednesday, the latest projections from the September meeting suggested the committee was split on rate hikes for 2022, with nine members seeing no rate hikes by the end of next year while the other nine members saw at least one hike. 

“I think the Fed has pretty well determined to start the taper pretty quickly. We expect them to announce it next week and then start it soon thereafter, so that’s pretty well carved in stone,” Kathy Jones, Charles Schwab chief fixed income strategist, told Yahoo Finance Live last week. “I think the big debate now is how quickly the Fed moves toward actually raising rates. The expectation in the market has really shifted to expecting as many as two rate hikes in 2022 and 2023 … that’s a pretty aggressive pace of tightening.” 

October jobs report 

One of this week’s most closely watched pieces of economic data will be the October jobs report, which is due for release on Friday from the Labor Department. 

Economists are looking to see a pick-up in the pace of hiring for October after a disappointing print in September, when just 194,000 non-farm payrolls returned versus the half million expected. Over the past two months, payroll gains averaged at just 280,000. The unemployment rate is expected to take another small step toward pre-pandemic levels in October as well, with the jobless rate anticipated to dip to 4.7% from 4.8% the prior month.

Still, the labor market has still fallen short its pre-pandemic conditions on a number of fronts. The unemployment rate has yet to return to its 50-year low of 3.5% from February 2020. And as of September, the civilian labor force was still down by about 3.1 million individuals from pre-virus levels. 

One factor weighing on the labor market in August and September was the Delta variant, which may have deterred some workers from seeking employment in person for risk of infection. And an ongoing element dragging on the labor market’s recovery has been a mismatch of supply and demand, with employers struggling to fill a near-record number of job openings while voluntary quits jumped to a historically high level. 

“Next week’s October payrolls report will shed light on whether supply eased on diminishing constraints or if the labor market continues to face headwinds for now,” wrote Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, in a note last week. 

But some data from the past couple weeks has reflected favorably on conditions in the labor market in October. Weekly new unemployment claims broke below 300,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic during the survey week for the October jobs report, or the week that includes the 12th of the month. And in the Conference Board’s October Consumer Confidence Index, just 10.6% of consumers said jobs were “hard to get,” down from 13.0% in September. That brought the Conference Board’s closely watched labor market differential, or percentage of consumers saying jobs are “hard to get” subtracted from the percentage saying jobs “are plentiful,” to 45, or its highest level since 2000. 

Economic calendar

  • Monday: Markit U.S. Manufacturing PMI, Oct. final (59.3 expected, 59.2 in September); Constructing spending, month-over-month, September (0.4% expected, 0.0% in August); ISM Manufacturing Index, Oct. (60.5 expected, 61.1 in September)

  • Tuesday: No notable reports scheduled for release

  • Wednesday: MBA Mortgage Applications, week ended Oct. 29 (0.3% during prior week); ADP Employment Change, Oct. (400,000 expected, 568,000 in September); ISM Services Index, October (62.0 expected, 61.9 in September); Factory Orders, September (-0.1% expected, 1.2% in August); Durable goods orders, September final (-0.4% in prior print; Durable goods orders excluding transportation, September final (0.4% in prior print); Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, September final (0.8% in prior print); Markit U.S. Services PMI, October final (58.2 expected, 58.2 in prior print); Markit U.S. Composite PMI, October final (57.3 in prior print); Federal Open Market Committee monetary policy decision

  • Thursday: Challenger job cuts, year-over-year, October (-84.9% in September); Initial jobless claims, week ended Oct. 30 (275,000 expected, 281,000 during prior week); Continuing claims, week ended Oct. 23 (2.147 million expected, 2.243 million during prior week); Non-farm productivity, Q3 preliminary (-3.2% expected, 2.1% in Q2); Unit Labor Costs, Q3 preliminary (6.9% expected, 1.3% in Q2); Trade balance, September (-$80.1 billion expected, -$73.3 billion in August) 

  • Friday: Change in non-farm payrolls, October (450,000 expected, 194,000 in September); Unemployment rate, October (4.7% expected, 4.8% in September); Average hourly earnings, month-over-month, October (4.7% expected, 4.8% in September); Average hourly earnings, year-over-year, October (4.9% expected, 4.6% in September); Labor Force Participation Rate, October (61.8% expected, 61.6% in September); Consumer Credit, September ($16.200 billion expected, $14.379 million in August)

Earnings calendar 

  • Monday: Clorox (CLX), Avis Budget Group (CAR), ZoomInfo Technologies (ZI), Chegg Inc. (CHGG), Diamondback Energy (FANG), The Simon Property Group (SPG) after market close

  • Tuesday: Under Armour (UAA), Estee Lauder (EL), Ralph Lauren (RL), Apollo Global Management (APO), Corsair Gaming (CRSR), Bloomin’ Brands (BLMN), ConocoPhillips (COP), Pfizer (PFE), Groupon (GPN), Marathon Petroleum (MPC) before…

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