‘Goldilocks’ jobs report gives market a slight boost, but traders may be getting ahead of themselves

The August unemployment rate of 3.7% (higher than 3.5% expected) and average hourly earnings of 0.3%, also a tad lighter than expected, will give some cheer to the bulls, but it’s not going to be enough to change the Fed narrative, not yet. “A weaker than expected employment report may prompt the Fed to only raise 50 basis points later this month, but that is all it should be doing anyway,” ,” Mike O’Rourke from Jones Trading said in a note to clients. “It is time to stop watching the ‘next move’ and acknowledge it is the collective moves and the duration of the policy rate plateau that matter. The heavy lifting is done, and the objective is to achieve the target level (currently 3.75% to 4%) in the coming months without creating a policy error of over-tightening.” The 7% decline in the S & P 500 in the last couple weeks has also brought stocks from overbought to veering toward oversold. “The sell-off is improving short-term risk/reward into conference season with the market approaching the low end of our near-term trading range of 3800-3900,” Christopher Harvey from Wells Fargo said in a note to clients. I wrote earlier this week that the September conference season, where hundreds of corporations present their second half outlook at theme-oriented sell-side conferences, may be much more important this year than they usually are. That’s because most companies have not provided updates since mid-to-late July, and a lot has changed since then. Harvey agreed, noting that Wall Street seems to eager to hear what companies have to say: “Conference season should help set the tone for the rest of 2022. Corporate roadshows and conference attendance does not appear to be tailing off, which is perhaps a small positive,” he said. At least stocks have gotten cheaper. The market multiple, or P/E ratio, is a critical component in determining the value of the stock market. It’s what investors are willing to pay for a future stream of dividends and earnings. Historically, it has traded between 15-17 times forward earnings estimates. When stocks were at new highs in January, it was a pricey 21, then plunged to roughly 16 during the June lows, went back up to a little over 18 during the July-August rally, and is now back to 17. That could change, and the immediate catalyst may be the upcoming conference season. “I anticipate conference season will result in a modest re-rating of overall earnings,” Harvey said.

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