Quit Rate Confirms the Jobs Momentum

Resigning

The U.S. jobs markets may still have some structural problems to work out, but cyclical trends in employment have been on an upward trajectory for most of this year. At Pinnacle we monitor a broad array of employment indicators that have been ticking in a positive direction; here are a few examples:

  • Non-farm payrolls have been over 200,000 for nine straight months. The unemployment rate has decelerated to 5.8% and is clearly trending down.
  • Unemployment Claims 4-Week Moving Average, one of our favorite leading indicators of the job market, has been persistently under the 300,000 level for many weeks.
  • Surveys of jobs hard-to-get are falling while surveys of job openings are picking up.
  • Employment components within small business and regional Federal Reserve surveys are trending up.
  • The Employment Trends Index continues to move in a positive direction.

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The Return of the Home Builders

Homebuilding

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB):

The Housing Market Index (HMI) is based on a monthly survey of NAHB members designed to take the pulse of the single-family housing market. The survey asks respondents to rate market conditions for the sale of new homes at the present time and in the next six months as well as the traffic of prospective buyers of new homes.

Our proprietary work shows that the HMI Index is negatively correlated to changes in interest rates, with a lag of about one year. This means that when interest rates fall (or rise), the HMI index tends to move in the opposite direction a year later. The rationale behind this relationship is simple: lower interest rates make new homes more affordable, thus leading to a brighter outlook for housing, as measured by the HMI index. In turn, increases in the HMI index typically coincide with better performance for home builders stocks.

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Getting it Right on Oil

oil pipeline

Earlier this year, we perceived significant risk inside the oil market: Large speculators had made extreme bullish bets in the futures market, and there was reduced demand from emerging markets. In response, we took half of our energy stock exposure and invested it in Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs). MLPs are natural resource activity companies, mostly involved in the distribution of oil or natural gas through pipelines. This side of the energy business is not directly tied to the price of oil, as oil needs to pass through pipes regardless of price. Additionally, oil supply in our country is skyrocketing and demand for the pipes is increasing. These two factors are major reasons why we were attracted to the investment, and why we remain constructive on the future of MLPs.

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Will Europe’s Recovery Continue?

European Recovery Threatened

Renewed signs of economic weakness in Europe have spooked investors and led to a significant correction in European stocks. In particular, there has been a spate of disappointing economic releases from Germany with industrial production, exports, and business confidence all coming in below expectations. This is concerning because Germany has been the backbone of the overall recovery with better growth relative to other European countries.

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Why is the Market Going Haywire?

Please Stand By

With markets moving and volatility picking up, the investment team has had some lively discussions recently. When turbulence breaks out there is often a tangled web of items to sort through in determining what is the major driver. Our summary view is that we’ve had a collision between complacent markets that have lost momentum as the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program winds down, and a European growth scare that has moved to the forefront. Negative daily news headlines don’t help either (e.g., Ebola), though these are likely temporary factors.

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What Is High-Frequency Trading?

High-Frequency Trading

When it comes to matching buyers and sellers of blue chip stocks on the New York Stock Exchange, the era of the floor trader has passed. You’ll still see traders bustling around in the background whenever you turn on CNBC, but it’s just a sideshow. These days, electronic trading is king. This has helped democratize trading by freeing it from financial centers like New York, London, and Tokyo, but it has also given rise to the controversial practice of High-Frequency Trading (HFT).

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