Stocks closed out a choppy week with the Dow up 44 points to 20,902. Trading volume was lower on the Dow but higher on the NASDAQ. For the week the Dow lost about 100 points or a half a point.
The February jobs report came in with solid numbers as new jobs increased by 235,000 against consensus calling for an increase of 190,000. The unemployment rate edged down 0.1% to 4.7%. Construction employment surged by 58,000 while manufacturing picked up 28,000. The markets took the report in stride in part because February was the second warmest February on record which might have pulled the normal spring construction hiring surge forward by a couple of months. Only time will tell how this factor will play out. The report also showed that wage growth is not rising as much as expected but recent comments from employers hint at pressure starting to build in this metric.
One thing the labor report makes clear is that a rate hike next week is considered a done deal. Look for Fed Chair Janet Yellen to raise rates a quarter point but more importantly what changes, if any, will be made to the forward guidance for future rate hikes.
Oil prices this week had a tough go with traders likely flocking to local watering holes for sustenance. WTI crude ended the week lower by about 9% after Friday’s action saw crude slip another 2% to $48 and change. Baker Hughes reported that the US rig count is now up 8 weeks in a row to 617 which is the highest total since September 2015. A huge new oil find was also announced in the Alaska North Slope area by Spanish oil giant Repsol.
There is a Boy Scout hiking trip with weekend to the east side of the Olympics. Finding a snow free spot north of Arizona is proving difficult. The lunkheads and I plan on combating the expected wind and rain with a huge campfire provided we find dry wood.