New claims for United States jobless benefits fell in mid-November, confirming the strength of American labor markets and continuing a record streak of low levels, official data showed Wednesday.
The result suggested November could see continued strong job creation as employment recovers from hurricane-related disruptions at the end of the summer.
Data were collected during the survey week for the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report.
The record run of low levels could also be one more factor nudging the US central bank towards adopting a third interest rate increase for the year when it meets next month.
For the week ending November 18, new claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 13,000 to 239,000, matching analyst expectations.
The less volatile four-week average rose slightly to 239,750. Officials in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico continue to face difficulties in reporting jobless figures, according to the Labor Department.
Jobless claims have now held below 300,000 for 142 weeks, or nearly three years, the longest such streak since 1970.
Analysts say, however, that the levels in fact represent an absolute low, given the increase in the population in the last 47 years.
Though they can see big swings from week to week, jobless claims can be used to gauge the prevalence of layoffs and health of labor markets.
The Federal Reserve has reported a widespread labor shortage, as employers face difficulty filling vacant positions with qualified workers.
Analysts say under such conditions companies are reluctant to let workers go, fearing they may be hard to replace. But wage growth has remained sluggish.
Boom: Christmas bonuses to jump 66%, to $1,797
In the latest sign of a booming economy, human resources officers from some 500 corporations anticipate a massive 66 increase in cash Christmas bonuses, added to a big surge in gifts and parties for American workers.
New data to Secrets from Accounting Principals said the “average bonus” will jump from $1,081 last year to $1,797.
- 39 percent of companies plan to give employees other perks throughout the year instead of a bonus.
- 38 percent will give charitable donations in lieu of a bonus, up from 31 percent in 2016.
- 33 percent of HR managers say that asking a boss for a bonus directly will increase the likelihood of getting a bonus, compared to 15 percent in 2016.
For the shy, Accounting Principals, an accounting jobs site, even offered tips on how to get more at Christmas, including “stay motivated, be positive, and volunteer to take on new responsibilities.”
Stocks scale record high, crude oil gains
A gauge of global equity performance scaled fresh record highs on Wednesday, propelled by bullish growth and company earnings outlooks, while crude oil prices rose to more than two years highs.
Asia again led global markets higher as Hong Kong’s main Hang Seng index closed above 30,000 points for the first time in a decade. China’s H-shares index and Japan’s Nikkei share average also rose.
Shares in Europe were mixed, with Britain’s main index rising as Germany’s DAX index and other indices fell. Wall Street traded flat to slightly lower.
But MSCI’s all-country world index of stock performance in 47 countries rose 0.23 percent as it set a new all-time high. Emerging markets also rose, with MSCI’s main equity benchmark touching fresh six-year highs.
MSCI’s all-country world index gained 0.21 percent while the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading regional shares closed down 0.25 percent.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 47.05 points, or 0.2 percent, to 23,543.78. The S&P 500 lost 2.17 points, or 0.08 percent, to 2,596.86 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.73 points, or 0.01 percent, to 6,861.75.
The S&P technology index fell 0.36 percent after two days of gains, pulled lower by an 8.2-percent drop in Hewlett Packard Enterprise after Meg Whitman said she would leave as chief executive in February.
The decision by Whitman, a high-profile U.S. executive, took Wall Street by surprise and the tech-heavy Nasdaq edged lower.
But the U.S. equity market is poised for “smooth sailing” through year-end even as the ebullient mood on Wall Street signals trouble later in 2018, Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer at The Leuthold Group LLC in Minneapolis.
However, the broad equity advance, with few lagging sectors, suggests the bull market still has room to run, Ramsey said.
“The odds that we’ll be at higher highs three to four months from now are very high, though it doesn’t rule some short-term setback,” he said. “I have never seen a major bull market top that looks like anything where we stand today, even compared to 1987.”
Oil retreated slightly from a more than two-year high after U.S. crude stockpiles fell less than an industry group had suggested on Tuesday.
Still, U.S. crude prices remained elevated near $58 a barrel after sources said the Keystone pipeline will cut deliveries by 85 percent or more through the end of November.
U.S. crude rose $1.06 percent to $57.89 a barrel and Brent was last up 44 cents at $63.01 a barrel.
The dollar fell, touching its lowest level in more than a month against the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc, after the release of weaker-than-expected U.S. data and inflation expectations.
New orders for U.S.-made capital goods unexpectedly fell in October after three straight months of strong gains and a measure of goods orders that strips out volatile components had its biggest drop since September 2016.
The dollar fell to 111.62 yen its lowest since Sept. 26. Against the Swiss franc the dollar fell to its lowest since Oct. 20, hitting 0.9827 franc.
The euro rose to a session high against the dollar of $1.1796.
The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment report showed a decline in expectations for long-term inflation.
U.S. Treasury yields were steady before the Federal Reserve is due to release minutes from its latest meeting before the session ends, with trading volumes seen subdued before Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.
The Fed’s meeting minutes will be evaluated for any new indications that a rate hike is likely in December, with market participants seeing the rate hike as all but certain. Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 7/32 in price to yield 2.3382 percent.
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