Keep expectations low for jobs report
"Let there be jobs!" That was essentially the edict from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke when he launched a new round of quantitative easing three weeks ago.
Will the Fed's plan of buying mortgage-backed securities and extending low interest rates work to reduce unemployment? It's still a little too early to determine that but come Friday, Wall Street will certainly be watching the release of September's non-farm payroll number with interest.
The consensus on Wall Street is that US employers will have added 135,000 jobs in the month, which would be an increase for the 96,000 lift in August.
Julia Coronado, chief economist for North America at BNP Paribas, however, had a gloomier outlook, predicting a gain of only 75,000.
"Many of our indicators have displayed weaknesses. The number of firms hiring is down, and firms' appetites to add temporary workers has also fallen. Combine that with the uncertainty businesses feel and it's likely the jobs report will be poor," said Coronado.
Another important indicator of economic health to look out for is today's ISM manufacturing index, which measures the health of the manufacturing sector. Economists expect the September index to stay below the critical 50% mark for the fourth month in a row. A reading below 50% indicates that manufacturing activity is generally shrinking.
But should we fear another recession?
Not yet, said Coronado, who notes that the manufacturing sector showed similar weaknesses a year ago but eventually proved "more resilient than we expected." She predicted an ISM figure of 49, which is bad but "not the worst in the world."