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Author: Don Obrien

What to know this week


The spotlight this week for Wall Street will be on labor market data, as investors await the release of the Labor Department’s September jobs report on Friday. Several earnings results from major consumer brands are also on tap. 

Traders are looking to see payroll gains accelerate in September after a shockingly disappointing August jobs report, when just 235,000 jobs came back versus the more than 700,000 expected. Consensus economists anticipate that 475,000 payrolls returned in September, and that the unemployment rate fell to 5.1%, or the lowest since March 2020.

“There is more hope for the labor market. The next few months will be important and we could see greater labor market participation as fear of the virus abates,” Bank of America U.S. economist Michelle Meyer wrote in a note on Friday. 

Meyer also flagged recent comments from Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, who addressed some of the ongoing labor scarcities and issues in bringing individuals back into the workforce. 

“The decline in labor force participation appears to reflect COVID-related constraints that have been prolonged by Delta rather than permanent structural changes in the economy,” Brainard said in public remarks in Arlington, Va., last week. 

HALLANDALE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 21: A Now Hiring near the entrance to a Ross department store on September 21, 2021 in Hallandale, Florida. Government reports indicate that Initial jobless benefit claims rose 20,000 to 332,000 in the week ended Sept. 11. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

HALLANDALE, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 21: A Now Hiring near the entrance to a Ross department store on September 21, 2021 in Hallandale, Florida. Government reports indicate that Initial jobless benefit claims rose 20,000 to 332,000 in the week ended Sept. 11. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

But these virus-related risks still remain a point of concern for the labor market’s recovery, and for the September jobs report in particular. And the U.S. economy has still lost a net total of over 5 million payrolls since March 2020, underscoring the deficit still left to recoup on employment.

“To the downside, we see risk of public payrolls contracting modestly in September as education payrolls could recede modestly due to school closures amid the Delta wave and negative payback from strong hiring over the summer,” Meyer said. “Consequently, we think private payrolls growth will be marginally stronger than non-farm payrolls growth. All told, the data flow suggests another soft month of employment activity but a slightly faster pace of job gains compared to August.”

Importantly, the September jobs report will be a key factor in informing the Federal Reserve’s timing on formally announcing and beginning tapering of its pandemic-era asset purchase program. The central bank signaled last month that it believed the economy was on its way to being able to stand on its own without the extraordinary levels of monetary policy support seen over the course of the year and a half. 

And indeed, Fed officials have said the economy has already met the central bank’s targeted threshold for inflation, and that only more progress on the labor market’s recovery was needed to be enough to trigger the start of tapering. 

“It wouldn’t take a knockout, great, super strong employment report,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said during his latest post-FOMC meeting press conference in September. “It would take a reasonably good employment report for me to feel like that test is met.” 

Consumer names to report earnings 

A number of companies are set to report quarterly results throughout the week, offering a first look at how corporate profits have held up in the third-quarter before a bigger wave of firms report results in the coming weeks. 

The names reporting this week will center on major consumer brands including PepsiCo (PEP), Constellation Brands (STZ) and Levi Strauss (LEVI). One of the key themes from these reports and earnings calls will be on commentary around inflation, labor and supply chain challenges, given rising prices and materials shortages already seen across various pockets of the economy. 

Results last week from companies including Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), for instance, already served as a harbinger of the myriad supply-side issues facing the retail industry. The company posted an unexpected drop in same-store sales for its quarter ending in late August, whereas Wall Street had projected same-store sales growth. The drop came both as a result of consumer skittishness over shopping in-person during the Delta variant’s spread, and as supply pressures weighed on growth.

When asked during the company earnings call whether these challenges might abate over the balance of the year, Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Mark Tritton said the company was “not expecting supply chain pressures to ease.” 

“We operated under unprecedented supply chain conditions that have continued to increasingly tighten global trade since last year,” Tritton said.

Companies in other industries have highlighted similar concerns. Micron (MU), the biggest domestic memory chipmaker, said in a letter to customers that it was still experiencing cost increases for materials and services and did “not expect that pressure to ease in the foreseeable future,” according to a report from Bloomberg last week. And earlier in September, FedEx (FDX) posted a sharp miss on quarterly profits as supply chain pressures and rising labor costs pressured margins for the shipping giant

Economic calendar

  • Monday: Factory orders, August (1.0% expected, 0.4% in July); Durable goods orders, August final (1.8% in prior print); Durable goods orders, excluding transportation, August final (0.2% in prior print); Non-defense capital goods orders, excluding aircraft, August final (0.5% in prior print); Non-defense capital goods orders, excluding aircraft, August final (0.7% in prior print)

  • Tuesday: Trade balance, August (-$70.5 billion expected, -$70.1 billion in July); Markit U.S. services PMI, September final (54.4 expected, 54.4 in prior print); Markit U.S. composite PMI, September final (54.5 in prior print); ISM Services index, September (60.0 expected, 61.7 in August)

  • Wednesday: MBA Mortgage Applications, week ended October 1 (-1.1% during prior week); ADP Employment Change, September (450,000 expected, 374,000 in August)

  • Thursday: Challenger Job Cuts, year-over-year, September (-86.4% in August); Initial jobless claims, week ended October 2 (349,000 expected, 362,000 during prior week); Continuing claims, week ended September 25 (2.802 million during prior week); Consumer credit, August ($18.000 billion expected, $17.004 billion in July)

  • Friday: Change in non-farm payrolls, September (488,000 expected, 235,000 in August); Unemployment rate, September (5.1% expected, 5.2% in August); Average hourly earnings, month-over-month, September (0.4% expected, 0.6% in August); Average hourly earnings, year-over-year, September (4.6% expected, 4.3% in August); Labor force participation rate, September (61.7% in August); Wholesale inventories, month-over-month, August final (1.2% expected, 1.2% in prior estimate) 

Earnings calendar 

  • Monday: No notable reports scheduled for release

  • Tuesday: PepsiCo (PEP) before market open

  • Wednesday: Constellation Brands (STZ) before market open; Levi Strauss (LEVI) after market close

  • Thursday: Conagra Brands (CAG), Tilray (TLRY) before market open 

  • Friday: No notable reports scheduled for release

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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