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@theMarket: Labor Markets Rock Stocks
By Bill Schmick, iBerkshires columnist
04:12PM / Friday, July 07, 2023

The July 4th shortened week was one where volatility claimed the markets. Interest rates and the dollar rose, sending stocks lower. The job data was the culprit.
The media blamed the setback on higher interest rates, as Fed heads cluttered the airways with warnings that the pause is over and higher interest should be expected by financial markets. The point hit home when the most recent data on job growth indicated further strength. On Thursday, the payroll processing firm, ADP, reported 497,000 jobs added in June; the most in over a year. At this point, there are more than 50 percent more job openings than people unemployed.
The latest reading on the Supply Chain Management Services Index also ticked up to 53.9 in June, which was higher than the expected reading of 51.2. That led the Atlanta Fed to push up its second-quarter GDP expectations from 1.9 to 2.1 percent.  
Even though the manufacturing side of the economy appears to be weakening, the services side of the economic ledger appears to be buoying economic expansion. That could lead to even more job growth as the services sector continues to hire workers to fill the continued demand.
On Friday, however, the non-farm payroll data for June came in far lower than expected. It came in at 209,000 job gains versus 240,000 expected, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.6 percent, but average hourly earnings went up 0.4 percent versus a gain of 0.3 percent 
None of this is going to make the Fed happy. The difference between the two labor reports was contradictory at best. The wage gains were not. It likely means inflation and the Fed will keep interest rates higher for longer. There is even talk that we may face several more rate hikes instead of just one or two more in the coming months.
The debt market has responded by selling U.S. Treasuries in anticipation of that possibility, which has sent the ten-year U.S. Treasury bond above 4 percent for the first time in months. Mortgage rates also hit the highest point of the year with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 6.71 percent. That has hurt housing activity this summer as homeowners pulled back from listing homes and rate-sensitive buyers reigned in their purchase plans.
There is no question that stocks are extended. This week saw some of the air escape from the bullish balloon that has sent stocks higher since the beginning of the year. Those stocks that were most overbought, like the Magnificent Seven, were not immune from the selloff. I suspect that we face a period of consolidation ahead, which will delay somewhat my expectations for more market gains.
The summer months, on average, are usually more volatile since there are fewer players on their computers. Vacations and shorter work weeks leave markets vulnerable to larger moves both up and down. I plan to be on vacation myself in the week starting July 17 so no columns that week, unfortunately.
Many strategists are looking for a temporary peak in the markets this month. I agree. I am hoping stocks can move a little higher and they still may, but we are stretched at this point. Corporate earnings are right around the corner. Valuations are stretched and many companies are going to have to show stellar results to support prices. 
Inflation data in the form of the Consumer Price Index and the Produce Price Index are due out next week as well. That should offer a chance for stocks to move higher if the numbers are cooler. Hotter results would give traders an excuse to sell. The bottom line, however, is that I believe markets will climb higher in the months ahead, so stay invested. 

Bill Schmick is the founding partner of Onota Partners, Inc., in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Onota Partners Inc. (OPI). None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-413-347-2401 or email him at

Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of OPI, Inc. or a solicitation to become a client of OPI. The reader should not assume that any strategies or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold, or held by OPI. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct.


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