Friday, October 17, 2014

Florida Unemployment Down To 6.1%


TALLAHASSEE, Florida --  Florida Governor Rick Scott announced today that Florida’s statewide unemployment rate in September was 6.1%, down 0.2 percentage point from last month and down 0.8 percentage point from the September 2013 rate of 6.9%.  


The Sunshine State created 12,800 private-sector jobs in September 2014.  Since December 2010, Florida’s private-sector businesses have added 651,300 jobs. Florida’s annual job growth rate has exceeded the nation’s rate since April 2012.


“Today’s announcement that Florida businesses have created nearly 13,000 private-sector jobs is great news for Florida families," Governor Scott said.  "Our policies are working in Florida, and more-and-more Floridians are able to get a job and support their family, and we will keep working until every Floridian who wants a job can get one.”


Since December 2010, Florida’s unemployment rate has dropped 5.0 percentage points, from 11.1% down now to 6.1% in September 2014.  Florida’s unemployment rate has declined or held steady over the month for 46 of the last 49 months.



The industry gaining the most jobs was trade, transportation, and utilities (+55,300 jobs, +3.5 percent). Other industries gaining jobs included construction (+41,900 jobs, +11.2 percent); professional and business services (+36,500 jobs, +3.2 percent); leisure and hospitality (+29,900 jobs, +2.9 percent); private education and health services (+23,400 jobs, +2.1 percent); manufacturing (+6,900 jobs, +2.1 percent); financial activities (+5,700
jobs, +1.1 percent); other services (+4,700 jobs, +1.5 percent); and information (+1,200 jobs, +0.9 percent).



These industry job gains were partially due to increases in food and beverage stores; specialty trade contractors; employment services; food services and drinking places; ambulatory health care services; fabricated metal product manufacturing; insurance carriers and related activities; membership associations and organizations; and telecommunications.


Government (‐200 jobs, less than ‐0.1 percent) was the only industry to lose jobs over the year.  This loss was due to local government.





Brevard County Unemployment

Brevard County's unemployment rate fell to 6.4% in September 2014, down from 7.7% a year ago.  The Space Coast unemployment rate continues to remain higher than that of the Florida statewide rate.   Out of a labor force of 267,641, there were 17,197 unemployed residents in the county.


Total nonagricultural employment increased by 1,400 jobs over the year in the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville metro area.   Job gains on the Space Coast over the last year were led by education and health services (+1,000 jobs); other services (+700 jobs); leisure and hospitality (+600 jobs); mining, logging, and construction (+500 jobs); and government (+100 jobs).


The industries that lost jobs over the year were professional and business services (-1,100 jobs), manufacturing (-300 jobs), and financial activities (-100 jobs). Trade, transportation, and utilities and information remained unchanged over the year.


RELATED STORIES:

U.S. Jobless Claims Lowest In 14 Years

Stocks, Oil Down For The Week

QUICK READ:  Stocks got absolutely trounced this week, saved only by ephemeral rumors of Janet Yellen making dovish comments behind closed doors. The global economy continues to be mired in a slowdown, making it more difficult for Europe to simply inflate and spend its way out of stagnation. The growing concerns over how to contain the Ebola outbreak has also roiled the markets, as stocks are down and gold continues to climb.



While economic conditions seem to be steadily improving in the U.S., markets have continued to fall right along with Europe. The dollar finally saw some easing this week, while investors poured into Treasuries in droves. Gold remains stable as it steadily moves higher on increased demand.



Oil remains in a bear market, as both major benchmarks opened the week below $90. WTI crude was trading below $84 on Friday while Brent crude was under $87. These represent fresh four-­year lows for crude oil, partly due to surplus production. Falling oil prices will also apply downward pressure on inflation generally, as lower energy and transportation costs help drive the prices of many commodities lower.



All three of the major U.S. stock indices opened in the red Monday, each sliding more than 1%. Over a three­-day span going back to last week, the S&P lost 4.8%, the worst showing for the index over such a time period since November 2011. The stock markets ran off five consecutive days of losses, culminating in a “Hail Mary” from the Fed: it was leaked on Wednesday, when the Dow was down more than 400 points, that Janet Yellen had privately expressed confidence in the growth outlook for the U.S. economy last week. This was all investors needed to feel better, and the markets largely erased the day’s losses. There was little movement on Thursday, however, in spite of surprisingly high industrial production numbers and the lowest first-­time jobless claims report in over 13 years. This positive data was coupled with retail sales coming in below expectations and the Producer Price Index (PPI) dropping for the first time in over a year.



European stocks were at a 13-­month low this week, struggling to gain momentum in such a growth­-depressed economic environment. Several Mediterranean countries have been aggressively selling off government bonds, driving yields up. Greece’s 10­year Treasury note has gained a staggering 318 basis points over the last month, touching 8.94% before slightly easing back to 8.64%. To a lesser extent, even Europe’s strongest economy is feeling the lack of bond demand, as well. After dipping below 0.8%, the German 10­year bund yield rose 6 basis points back to 0.82%.


By contrast, U.S. Treasuries have been the beneficiary of Europe’s growth concerns. After beginning the week down around 2.28%, the yield on 10­year T-­notes fell even further on record trade volumes; some $777 billion of Treasuries exchanged hands on the market by 2 pm on Wednesday, the heaviest volume of such trades on record. As a result, 10­year yields briefly slipped below 2% before returning to about 2.05%. Some selling occurred on Friday morning, as yields rose again to 2.22%.



A LOOK AHEAD:

Yellen spoke on Friday morning in front of the Boston Fed regarding inequality of economic opportunity in America. Presumably, poverty will drop following her comments. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) will be updated next week on Wednesday and first­-time jobless claims are slated for Thursday. Existing home sales will be reported Tuesday while new home sales come out Friday. Together, this data should give a clearer indication of consumer sentiment and market conditions.



By Everett Millman, head content writer at Gainesville Coins, a leading gold and silver distributor.

Belize Denies Carnival Cruise Ship Entry After Ebola Quarantine

UPDATE:  Lab Worker Aboard Cruise Ship Tests Negative For Ebola Virus


A supervisor of the Texas lab that handled samples from a Liberian man who died after contracting the Ebola virus is being quarantined aboard the Carnival Cruise ship Carnival Magic.   The Carnival Magic was destined for Belize with 3,652 passengers and 981 crew members aboard - but was not allowed to port into Belize City by the Belize Coast Guard, the Belizean reported


"Late afternoon on Wednesday, Oct. 15., we were made aware by the U.S. CDC of a guest sailing this week on board Carnival Magic who is a lab supervisor at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital," Carnival Cruise Lines said in a statement this morning.  "At no point in time has the individual exhibited any symptoms or signs of infection and it has been 19 days since she was in the lab with the testing samples. She is deemed by CDC to be very low risk. At this time, the guest remains in isolation on board the ship and is not deemed to be a risk to any guests or crew. It is important to reiterate that the individual has no symptoms and has been isolated in an extreme abundance of caution. We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board."


The recent spread of the Ebola virus in the U.S. and abroad is starting to affect the tourism and travel industry as potential travelers and vacationers re-think their future travel plans.


The cruise ship industry and their related stocks are being hit particularly hard despite a drop in fuel prices.  Carnival Cruise Line stock has been under pressure for the past few weeks after the cruise giant had to change itineraries due to Ebola outbreaks in west Africa. Airline stocks are also taking a tumble due to passenger fears of contracting travel-related Ebola.   

"I think that cruise ships might be the most vulnerable of the travel and leisure cohort, maybe even more than airplanes, which themselves have a huge problem. It's simply disruptive to their business," said CNBC financial commentator Jim Cramer.



Ebola Facts:


Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.  The average fatality rate is around 50%.  


The virus was originally transmitted to people in Africa from non-human primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) and then spread into the human population through human-to-human transmission. 


The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history. There have been cases reported in the U.S., Spain, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.


Although some cruise ships have a ship's registry in West Africa, this does not neccesarily mean that the ship has recently traveled to West Africa.


There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola.



The CDC recommends the following tips to prevent Ebola contamination:
  • Practice careful hygiene. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
  • Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
  • Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from non-human primates.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

U.S. Jobless Claims Lowest In 14 Years

U.S. Civilian labor force participation rate over 16.  Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims was 264,000 in the week ending October 11, a decrease of 23,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 287,000,


This is the lowest level for initial claims since April 15, 2000 when it was 259,000.  The 4-week moving average was 283,500, a decrease of 4,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 287,750. This is the lowest level for this average since June 10, 2000 when it was 283,500.


But the lower jobless claims do not necessary mean a healthier job market.  That's because those jobless claims do not count those no longer in the labor force who have given up looking for work, are underemployed, retired early, have gone on disability because their unemployment benefits lapsed, or have gone to college and taken out student loans because they cannot find employment.  


As the above graph shows, the number of Americans actually participating in the labor force has dropped nearly five percentage points since 2000 to the lowest since Jimmy Carter was President in 1977.  When less people are participating in the labor force, the unemployment level and jobless claims drop because the people not participating in the labor are no longer counted as unemployed and looking for work.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ebola Virus Taking A Toll On Tourism And Travel

Carnival Cruise ship.  Brevard Times / File photo.

The recent spread of the Ebola virus in the U.S. and abroad is starting to affect the tourism and travel industry as potential travelers and vacationers re-think their future travel plans.


The cruise ship industry and their related stocks are being hit particularly hard despite a drop in fuel prices.  Carnival Cruise stocks are under pressure after the cruise giant had to change itineraries due to Ebola outbreaks in West Africa. 








Airline stocks are also taking a tumble due to passenger fears of contracting travel-related Ebola.  The U.S. Center for Disease Control announced just today that the second healthcare worker who tested positive last night for Ebola in Texas traveled by air October 13, the day before she reported symptoms.  The CDC is now attempting to track down all 132 passengers who flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on October 13.

"I think that cruise ships might be the most vulnerable of the travel and leisure cohort, maybe even more than airplanes, which themselves have a huge problem. It's simply disruptive to their business," said CNBC financial commentator Jim Cramer.



Ebola Facts:

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.  The average fatality rate is around 50%. 


The virus was originally transmitted to people in Africa from non-human primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) and then spread into the human population through human-to-human transmission. 


The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history. There have been cases reported in the U.S., Spain, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.


Although some cruise ships have a ship's registry in West Africa, this does not neccesarily mean that the ship has recently traveled to West Africa.

There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola.


The CDC recommends the following tips to prevent Ebola contamination:
  • Practice careful hygiene. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
  • Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
  • Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Gold Prices Hit 3-Week High, Stocks Recover

QUICK READ: After precious metals tracked with stocks into red territory last week, the metals reversed direction on persistent fears that Europe and Russia will drag down the global economy. The stock markets briefly recovered much of their losses from early in the week following the release of September’s FOMC meeting minutes; the minutes and statements by the Fed essentially reaffirmed the central bank’s inclination toward accommodative monetary policy for at least the next several months. 


The stock markets took a shellacking this week, as the three leading U.S. indices each plunged more than 2% from their Monday opens.


Tuesday saw a precipitous drop, as the Dow Jones lost nearly 200 points while both the S&P 500 and NASDAQ has their lowest closing numbers in 2 months. The neutral (markets read: dovish) reports from the FOMC on Wednesday gave stocks a tremendous boost, helping them recover nearly all of the week’s losses, before another steep sell ­off on Thursday.  All 30 of the stocks traded on the Dow were in the red on Thursday, a day of trading that turned out to be the worst for the industrial index since early February. The dollar finally eased a bit, slipping below 85.2 before bouncing back to about 86 on the dollar spot index.


Job openings in the U.S., used as an approximate measure of labor demand, reached its highest level since 2001. Although this would appear to indicate that the job market is looking firmer, the labor participation rate continues to be dismal; it’s no surprise that this metric has been removed from the “official” unemployment calculations provided by the state.


As one might expect, U.S. Treasury yields slid, as the 30­-year bond sat at 3.03%, its lowest since May of last year, and the 10­year note was as low as 2.30%. Since the beginning of 2014, the 10-­year T-­note yield has dropped a remarkable 76 basis points, including shedding some 30 bp over the last month alone.


Following encouraging economic news from the jobs report and non-­farm payrolls, gold began the week at a 15­-month low. The yellow metal bounced to a 3-­week high near $1,223 after touching its “triple bottom,” considered by technical analysts a reliable indicator of the reversal of a prolonged downward trend. With the dollar’s momentary easing, gold futures jumped by their largest margin in two months.


Generally, the precious metals recovered this week to post modest gains across the board, although volatility has certainly increased. Platinum dropped to $1,264 early in trading Friday after dipping as low as $1,225 last week. Even with the trend reversal, platinum remains down just shy of 9% over the past month.


Despite precious metals largely recovering, other commodities have continued to fall. Crude oil tumbled to two­-year lows, as both WTI crude and Brent crude have slumped below the $90 mark. The falling prices can be attributed to a supply glut and weaker growth projections for the global economy.


In corporate news, Hewlett­-Packard has announced it will split into two separate companies­­ one focused on the software side of the business, the other concerned only with hardware. HP stock popped 4.7% on the news Monday.


A LOOK AHEAD:

Monday is the Columbus Day holiday in the U.S., and thus bond markets will be closed. With Fed policy demystified for the moment and most major geopolitical risks under wraps, the markets will likely focus on the release of economic indicators next week. Retail sales come out Wednesday, while first ­time jobless claims and industrial production reports are slated for Thursday. 


By Everett Millman, head content writer at Gainesville Coins, a leading gold and silver distributor.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Red Across the Board Save For the Greenback

QUICK READ:  This week was a veritable free fall for both stocks and commodities. This is contrasted by the dollar’s strength, as the dollar spot index continues to climb to four-­year highs.  Pro­-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong dominated the headlines; despite the broad support for the cause outside of mainland China, uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the protests contributed to stocks trending lower in both East and West. 


The dollar continued to rally, as the DXY hit its highest mark since Summer 2010. After closing at 85.6 on Monday, the dollar spot index rose to nearly 86 by Friday’s open. The seemingly inexorable rise of the dollar has pushed precious metals and other commodities lower. 


Platinum and silver are at five­-year lows, as the latter briefly dipped below $17 early in the week.  Gold retested the important $1,207 level before bouncing back to $1,215. In the paper markets, commodity ETFs saw their greatest monthly outflow since December.


Along with weakness in other commodities, oil has been falling swiftly. WTI crude oil crossed below the $90 threshold for the first time in 17 months in response to abundant supply. Brent crude has entered a bear market, slipping to 20% below its 52­week high. Demand in the U.S. has waned with the shale boom and otherwise robust output, as domestic production is on pace for its best year since 1986. U.S. reliance upon imported oil dropped from 60% in 2005 to 32% in 2013, and is projected to fall to just 21% next year.


At the same time, several oil­-producing nations are seeing impressive output. Both Libya and Kurdistan (an autonomous region of northeastern Iraq) have dramatically increased oil production, while the 12­nation organization OPEC also saw production rise in September. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest supplier, is cutting output by 408,000 barrels per day, as global output is clearly outstripping demand.


Stocks tumbled this week, as each of the major U.S. indices dropped over 1%. The Dow Jones slid over 300 points (­1.78%) between Monday and Thursday, settling below 17,000. The S&P fared no better, losing 1.66%. Only the Nasdaq saw a day in the green, gaining a modest 0.2% on Thursday. Following three consecutive days of losses, the stock market largely stabilized at week’s end after considerable intraday volatility on Thursday. Despite this recent slide, all three of the indices are up double­digit percentages on the year. Tech investors are keeping their ears their ground in the perpetual hunt for bargains as eBay announced plans to split from its subsidiary PayPal, and Yahoo executives continued to mull over a potential merger with AOL. 


In the Asian markets, China’s Hang Seng was in free fall this week as uncertainty surrounds the student­led protests in Hong Kong. The index saw triple­digit losses on consecutive days, dropping over 3%. Japanese stocks were hit equally hard, partly due to poor manufacturing numbers. This was compounded by a market shock on Thursday when a so­called “fat finger” electronic trading error resulted in over $300 billion of canceled orders. The Nikkei 225 sank to a three­week low on what was essentially a large institutional user malfunction.


A LOOK AHEAD: 

Important U.S. economic indicators are scheduled for release next week, as the FOMC minutes for September’s meeting are expected to be released Wednesday, October 8th, and Jobless Claims will be reported on Thursday, October 9th. Undoubtedly, investors and policy- makers will anxiously watch to see if the Hong Kong demonstrations persist into next week once the national holidays in China are over.


By Everett Millman, head content writer at Gainesville Coins, a leading gold and silver distributor.