Record job losses pile up, and yet the stock markets continue to rally

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Happy Friday, everyone. All eyes will be on the big jobs report today. It will be bad. Historically bad. But not so bad as to spoil the global rally in equities.

If you see a perverse disconnect between the roaring stock markets and a tanking global economy, you’re not alone.

Let’s check in on the action.

Markets update

Asia

  • The major indices are all in the green this morning with Japan’s Nikkei leading the way higher, up 2.5% in afternoon trade. Hong Kong and Shanghai were up nearly 1%.
  • There’s a potential thaw in U.S.-China trade tensions as both sides announced some progress in implementing the bilateral trade deal signed in January.
  • Here’s a contender for today’s depressing coronavirus headline: a Chinese study finds that 5-15% of infected COVID-19 patients may have tested positive a second time.

Europe

  • The European bourses climbed out of the gates. The bluechip Stoxx Europe 50 was up 0.7% at the open.
  • London’s FTSE is closed for the Bank Holiday.
  • Siemens this morning scrapped its 2020 guidance, and it believes the worst is yet to come this quarter. The German engineering giant has kept its factories open throughout the pandemic, but still saw a profit hit to all business segments.
  • The ECB’s Christine Lagarde had strong words yesterday evening for her critics in Germany, and for the wider market: don’t challenge the central bank’s independence. “We will continue to do whatever is needed, whatever is necessary, to deliver on that mandate. Undeterred,” she said, a swipe at Tuesday’s bombshell German high court ruling.
  • Lagarde’s words seemed to calm the bond markets with the Italian spread standing firm.
  • Meanwhile, Airbus has logged a mere nine orders for new jets, another sign of longterm pain for the aviation sector.

U.S.

  • The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures point to another 1% gain at the open.
  • The Nasdaq aims to extend its rally to a fifth day today. It closed yesterday up 1.4%, which sent the tech-heavy index into positive territory for the year.
  • The jobs report, due out before the opening bell, is expected to be one of the worst in American history. The consensus estimate is for 22 million jobs lost in the past month. That grim figure understates the true turmoil in the labor market.
  • Speaking of layoffs… Uber has had to slash payrolls in recent weeks as its core ride-haling business falters. But its food delivery business has been a pleasant surprise. The stock is up 6.3% in pre-market trading.

Elsewhere

  • Gold is up, a sign investors are buying just about everything.
  • But not the dollar; the greenback is down.
  • Crude is rallying again with Brent back above $30/gallon.

By the Numbers

33.5 million. That’s how many workers in the United States have now filed for unemployment benefits over the past seven weeks. Yesterday’s tally of roughly 3.2 million jobless claims pushed the real unemployment rate to an unofficial 24.9%. You have to go back to the 1930s, to the Great Depression, to see this kind of jobs destruction. A reminder: the ’30s was a bad decade for global stability… Today, we get the Bureau of Labor Statistics April payrolls report, which Fortune‘s Lance Lambert notes, will undercount the level of lost jobs by at least 7 million (as such you’ll hear a more benign unemployment figure from the one I mention above). So, while today’s number will be awful, and will grab a lot of headlines, just remember: the situation in America is actually worse.

17. It’s jobs day so you’re getting two labor-related data points in today’s roundup. (And this has nothing to do with my growing alarm at seeing the stock market rally as the labor market collapses). In a recent Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll of U.S. adults, 17% of those who had recently lost their job said they’d given up on looking for a new one. There’s all kinds of explanations for this wait-it-out approach. It might be stay-at-home orders or the extended unemployment benefits convincing would-be job hunters to postpone the search. Whatever the reason, the truly dismal state of the labor market will—apologies for the repetition here—go underestimated in any official government tally for a while.

0.08. About an hour after yesterday’s jobless claims numbers came in, the opening bell sounded and the U.S. markets took off. In the opening minutes yesterday, the Nasdaq hit 8,974.01, meaning the index had gone positive for the year. For good measure, it tacked on a few more points by the close, meaning it’s now up 0.08% for 2020. For tech investors, it’s as if the pandemic never happened. Ok, not quite. But, still, a remarkable rebound. Investors are pouring into the big 5—Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google’s Alphabet—presuming they’re more likely to withstand the worst of the economic crisis we’re in.

***

Have a nice weekend, everyone. I’ll see you here on Monday.

Bernhard Warner
@BernhardWarner
[email protected]

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