Jobs Report Could Signal Changes in Federal Reserve Interest Rates


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This upcoming Friday, October 7th, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to announce the jobs report results for September. The jobs report is always a key event for Wall Street, but this month, the implications could be particularly interesting for the long-term growth of the market.

Generally, positive job growth numbers are a good thing for the market -- it shows the economy is heading in the right direction. However, the Federal Reserve could interpret too much growth in the job market as a relative return to economic prosperity, and as a result, raise interest rates. Interest rate hikes are seen as a measure to combat inflation, however, it can have a negative effect on stock prices.

In December 2015, the Fed announced its first interest rate increase in almost 10 years, pushing for a 0.25% bump in the federal funds rate. Over the next two days, the S&P 500 SPDR ETF [$SPY] fell -3.8%, and the Dow Jones SPDR ETF [$DIA] dropped -3.7%. The market rebounded over several weeks, but the news certainly had a negative impact for stocks.

Last month, the government jobs report revealed that non-farm payrolls rose by 151,000 jobs in August.  This marked a slowdown in job growth compared to the previous month, when the figure climbed by an upwardly revised 275,000 jobs.

The result was slightly less than economists had expected.  The consensus estimate had called for an increase of 175,000 jobs. 

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent in August, unchanged from the previous month. 

The August data was released before the start of trading on September 2.  The result was a rise in stock prices, as traders bet that the disappointing data would help convince the Fed to leave rates unchanged at their meeting, which was scheduled to take place later that month.

In the wake of the September 2 jobs data release, SPY rose from $217.39 to $218.37.  The advance would continue into the following week, but reached a significant roadbump on September 9, when a series of speeches by members of the Fed's rate-setting committee once again raised concerns that the central bank would increase interest rates. 

This prompted a sharp drop in equity prices, with the SPY dropping -2.4% on the day and bouncing around near that level over the next week and a half. The worries about a September rate hike proved to be unfounded, as the Fed announced on September 21 that it had decided to leave rates steady.  

However, the Fed meeting did not provide a clear vision of the central bank's future rate plans.  The vote to leave rates unchanged included 3 dissenting votes, a rare level of dissension for the central bank.

Stocks rose as the Fed meeting took place, but have been choppy since.  Friday's jobs report will give the first major clue since the September Fed announcement of what is likely to happen when policy makers meet again next month.  

This time, another month of mid-range job growth is expected.  Economists are predicting an increase of approximately 170,000 jobs for September.  The unemployment rate is projected to stay at 4.9%.

Implied Volatility for SPY jumped to its highest level since late June as markets fell in early September.  It reached a near-term peak in the middle of the following week, closing at 14.7 on September 14.  However, Implied Volatility dropped as the Fed meeting took place, falling to a close of 10.0 on September 22.  It has since creeped up and is now sitting above 11.

The ATM Straddle premium for the SPY for a October 7 expiration - the day the jobs data is scheduled for release - is $2.15, or 1.0%.  The October 12 expiration has a premium of $3.06, or 1.4%.

The ATM Straddle premium for the November 2 expiration, the day of the next scheduled Fed announcement, is $5.76, or 2.7%.  The November 4 expiration has a premium of $6.06, or 2.8%.

For more, visit SPY's Option Summary on MarketChameleon.com