Why the Dow Could Still Head Lower
On the heels of yesterday's monster gain, it should be no surprise that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) is taking a breather, down only marginally in intraday trading. At the same time, it may strike some as a surprise that it isn't down further, given today's jobs report and the disappointing news from the technology sector.
The jobs market's bait and switch
For a moment yesterday, it appeared as if the week would end on an economic high note. A report issued on Thursday morning by Automated Data Processing, a payroll processing company, estimated that domestic companies added a total of 201,000 jobs last month, well above economists' projections of 140,000 to 150,000 and outpacing the upwardly revised 173,000 private-sector jobs added in July.
However, we now know the market's exuberance was premature, as official data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning tells a much more muted story. According to the government's tally, nonfarm employment was only up by a seasonally adjusted 96,000 last month, less than half of ADP's projections. To top things off, figures for the preceding two months were revised downward.
Although the unemployment rate improved to 8.1% from July's 8.3%, this shouldn't be interpreted as a harbinger of better things to come. It edged down because discouraged job-seekers have stopped looking for work, removing themselves from the so-called "labor force participation rate." According to The Wall Street Journal, men are now seeing the lowest such rate on record.
If there is a silver lining to this news, it's the belief that the figures will spur the Federal Reserve to initiate another round of quantitative easing -- the buying of long-dated Treasury securities in an effort to decrease borrowing costs and thereby spur investment. Following an annual meeting of economists and economic policymakers in Jackson Hole last week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke described the prevailing economic situation as "obviously far from satisfactory," noting further that the "rate of improvement in the labor market has been painfully slow." All eyes will accordingly be on the Fed as it meets next week to determine whether or not further monetary action is called for.
The technology sector's disturbing news
The other big negative influence on the Dow today was news that Intel (NAS: INTC) has downgraded its forward guidance. The company now expects its third-quarter revenue to be more than $1 billion less than previously estimated as the PC market continues its uphill battle against smartphones and tablets. Shares in the chipmaker are down 3.8% in intraday trading, followed closely by fellow technology companiesCisco Systems (NAS: CSCO) , Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) , and Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) , which are currently down 2.3%, 1.9%, and 1.5%, respectively.
Intel's announcement probably came as no surprise to many readers. Our own Evan Niu published an article at the end of last month title: "Is Intel About to Cut Its Guidance?" It also follows a wave of other top-label companies that have recently done the same. Shares in restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grilltook a nosedive two months ago after the company intimated that sales growth for the remainder of the year could be suppressed. And at the end of last week, shipping giant Fedex warned that its full-year earnings per share would likely be less than previously expected.
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