Continental Airlines Take Off Houston George Bush Intercontinental

Stocks finished the day with modest gains after initially falling following Friday morning’s somewhat disappointing jobs report. 

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 17,716, +55, (+0.3%)
  • S&P 500: 2,054, +4, (+0.2%)
  • Nasdaq: 4,731, +14, (+0.3%)
  • WTI crude oil: $44.50, +0.5%

Jobs Report

The April jobs report was a bit of a disappointment.

The US economy added 160,000 jobs in April, less than the 200,000 that was forecast by Wall Street economists and marking the slowest pace of job gains since October 2015. The unemployment rate also held steady at 5%, missing expectations for a drop to 4.9%.

(Though as Elena Holodny points out, the unemployment rate actually fell to 4.983514%.)

The labor force participation rate also fell in April, to 62.8% from 63%, likely as a result of fewer folks dropping out of the workforce altogether. Wage gains were decent, with average hourly earnings rising 2.5% over the prior year and 0.3% over the previous month. 

And while the headline numbers were disappointing on total job gains and just so-so elsewhere, this is really the kind of report we ought to get used to

Economists have contended for some time now that as the economy gets closer to “full employment” we’ll see fewer and fewer absolute payroll gains each month while wages will steadily push upward. And as we noted on Friday, last year San Francisco Fed president John Williams estimated about 60,000-100,000 new jobs are likely needed to sustain an economy that reaches full employment. 

Coming out of the recession we needed big gains in total employment to get things back on track; now, we’re just filling it in around the edges. 

Donald Trump

So, Donald Trump — the presumptive Republican nominee for president — has some ideas about debt. 

Trump spent his career doing casino and hotel deals and knows that leverage is a good thing, but can be a bad thing, but also knows that sometimes debt is negotiable. 

“I’ve borrowed knowing that you can pay back with discounts,” Trump said on CNBC on Thursday. This is true. For the US government, however, it is less true. 

And so people were a bit taken aback when Trump added that as president, “I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal.”

Again, this is like, sort of true but also definitely not. No one is going to be accepting a haircut on their US government debt without the yield on that debt rising to levels that would make the US government funding its obligations — which it does by issuing debt! — far more difficult than Trump or anyone in Wall Street is really willing to consider. 

In my view, though, I think taking this comment seriously on how Trump would view the US’ financial obligations is sort of missing the point. It’s not like we don’t know that Trump just says things and, well, the market at least didn’t take this seriously at all. 

Treasury yields rallied a bit after the jobs report but closed the day higher. Overall, nothing to see here. 

Bill Ackman

Bill Ackman had a bad day

Shares of Herbalife, the multi-level marketing firm he is famously betting will go out of business saw its shares rally about 10% on Friday after the company reported earnings that beat expectations and the company disclosed that its negotiations with the FTC have neared a possible conclusion. 

Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson said the company’s best estimate on a settlement is that it will come to about $200 million. This amount is subject to change, of course, but $200 million is not going to put the company out of business. 

Elsewhere in the Ackman portfolio, Valeant shares were down about 12%. Ackman is on the board of Valeant is perhaps even more famously long the company than he is short Herbalife. 

Valeant, however, seemed to be feeling the pain because of worries that its days of raising drug prices by huge amounts are coming to an end. 

On Thursday after the market close, Valeant announced it had formed a pricing committee to oversee how it prices drugs. Which you can probably take a signal it will be a bit more cautious in raising prices so executives don’t end up in front of Congress again. 

Valeant was also feeling the pressure from news out of generic drugmaker Endo Pharmaceuticals that its own pricing power is eroding. Endo shares fell about 40% on Friday. 

Endo CEO Paul Campanelli said on the company’s earnings call that, “we have seen a steep and rapid price erosion caused by payor consolidation that has been more even profound than anticipated. Its effect has exceeded what might have been expected from an ordinary downturn in the industry’s traditional pricing cycle.”

In layman’s terms, Campanelli is saying the company can’t raise prices anymore, and this is bad for the whole industry. Probably. 

Josh Brown has a snapshot of the damage here


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