If the government’s monthly jobs report is released but traders aren’t around to yell about it, does it still count?
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Next week the Labor Department will update Americans and the financial community on the state of the healing jobs market, releasing its monthly payrolls and unemployment data on Friday.
However, it won’t be possible to accurately gauge investors’ response to the market-moving report because the New York Stock Exchange, like most major equity markets, will be a deserted in honor of Good Friday.
The scheduling conflict raises the question of why the government doesn’t just release the data on a day when the financial markets won’t be in hibernation mode.
“The federal government is open on that day and it fits with our production schedule” of releasing the figures on the first Friday of the month, said Stacey Standish, a spokesperson in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is responsible for publishing the data. “We haven’t ever moved the date because of Good Friday.”
Good Friday clashes with Jobs Friday every several years, most recently in 2010. Good Friday is observed the Friday before Easter Sunday, which fluctuates between March 22 and April 25.
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The government jobs report is easily the most market-moving economic report traders receive every month. That’s been especially true over the past five years as the labor market cratered during the lead-up to the financial crisis before slowly recovering.
It’s not unusual to see the blue chips display a triple-digit reaction if the jobs report reveals either significantly more or less jobs were created than expected in the prior month.
For example, the Dow soared 157 points, or 1.2%, and the Nasdaq Composite soared to 11-year highs on February 3 after the government revealed the U.S. added a surprisingly robust 243,000 jobs in January.
This month’s reaction will be decidedly more muted.
“Maybe that’s good if the numbers are bad,” said Ted Weisberg, who has been an NYSE floor trader since 1974.
Weisberg didn’t seem particularly concerned over the scheduling conflict and was relieved that floor traders will have a rare day off. The NYSE is closed just eight days this year.
“The numbers are the numbers. They’ll be there Monday as well,” said Weisberg.
Besides in the U.S., equity markets in the U.K., Germany, France, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Canada, India and other major countries are all scheduled to be closed on Friday.
Likewise, the NYMEX and COMEX futures markets won’t be open, meaning it won’t be possible to gauge the reaction in economically-sensitive commodities like oil, gold and natural gas.
But that doesn’t mean investors and many Americans won’t be able to digest the data anyway.
“The government isn’t putting out that number for the benefit of the stock market. It’s putting it out as a report of interest to a lot of people other than stock traders,” said John Prestbo, editor and executive director of the CME Group’s (CME) Dow Jones Indexes. “That’s probably a pretty good reason to keep the schedule.”
On the other hand, Prestbo noted that more sophisticated investors will be able to react to the jobs data before many others via the futures markets.
Equity index futures will trade on Globex from their regular Thursday evening open until Friday at 9:15 a.m. ET when they are scheduled to close early. This will leave about 45 minutes of reaction time following the 8:30 a.m. jobs report release.
“The market is very sensitive to employment information. What will happen is that some traders will be able to react to it in the after-market trading market when the vast majority of investors will not,” said Prestbo. “That does lend itself to an unlevel playing field among market participants.”