The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits during the week of Thanksgiving saw a sharp rise to 234,000. This figure represented a rise of 10,000 claims from the week before and was also the third straight weekly increase. The 234,000 figure also easily topped consensus estimates for 220,000 claims. The monthly average of claims rose by 4,750 and now stands at 223,250.
The significant uptick in weekly jobless claims could simply be due to the effects of the holiday week and may reverse course in short order.
Has Anything Changed?
Not really, no. Despite these higher figures and the news from GM that it would be slashing its workforce, unemployment remains near a 50 year low while job openings are near an all-time high. The holiday season can bring with it some volatility in key data pieces, especially in employment data due to the seasonal nature of many jobs. Weekly jobless claims are likely to start ticking lower again barring any significant policy changes or events.
The Economy is Strong
Despite some recent bumps in the road, the U.S. economy remains strong and consumers remain upbeat. That being said, there are some issues pointing to potential weakness, and slower growth in China and elsewhere could potentially spill over into the U.S.
The Federal Reserve apparently recognizes these risks and may take a more dovish approach to monetary policy than previously anticipated. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell in commentary yesterday laid the groundwork for the Fed to be less aggressive in tightening policy. Traders still expect another hike next month, but are now pricing in only a single hike next year instead of three.
The gold market is seeing some follow-through buying today after yesterday’s gains. The market is up $5.90 per ounce at $1227.30 as of this post. The metal is seeing some strength as the dollar sees some moderate declines due to the Fed’s commentary. A less-aggressive Fed could set the stage for further weakness in the dollar, which could propel gold higher. The gold market may set its sights on key resistance in the $1245 area in the sessions ahead. A breakout above that level on a closing basis could draw in more buying interest and could set the stage for a more significant rally in price.