Nonfarm Bombshell Sends Markets Scampering

Say goodbye to 2012. That was the harsh conclusion of the marketplace after the release of the devastating May nonfarm report that forced the Dow to give up its entire year to date performance.

The cat was really set among the pigeons this morning when the Department of Labor informed us that only 69,000 jobs were gained in the previous month. The unemployment rate ratcheted up to 8.2%. “RISK OFF” returned with a vengeance, sending stocks, commodities and oil into a tailspin. Bonds roared, the ten year Treasury reaching the unimaginably low yield of 1.42%. Japanese style bond yields here we come.

The truly horrific numbers were the revisions, which saw the jobs figure for March cut by -11,000 and April by -38,000. The biggest gainers were in health care (+33,000), transportation and warehousing (+33,000), and manufacturing (+12,000). The losers were in construction (-28,000), government (-13,000), and leisure and hospitality (-9,000). The long term unemployment rate jumped from 5.1 million to 5.4 million. The inexorable trend of a shrinking government and a growing private sector continued.

Administration officials made every effort to put lipstick on this pig, and were at pains to point out that this was a seasonal slowdown that occurs every year. The operative word here is that jobs were “added”. They argued that the real focus should be on the 4.3 million private sector jobs created in the last 27 months. The markets didn’t buy this glass half full interpretation for a nanosecond.

Of course, further talk of quantitative easing came to the fore once again, preventing an even bloodier sell off, forcing traders to keep a hair trigger on their shorts. From here on, the government is going to attempt to make life as uncomfortable as possible for short sellers who are seen to be restraining the grand design. As I always tell traders in these conditions, make the volatility work for you and run towards it, not against it.

Don’t expect the Federal Reserve to rise to the rescue of risk assets anytime soon. It has so little dry powder left that it is unlikely to move until market conditions dramatically worsen. My bet is that the Fed won’t take action until the S&P 500 hits 1,100. The problem is that we may get our wish.

Looking at the charts below, you can only conclude that there is more pain to come. Commodities, the first asset class to enter this selloff, look like they will be the first to hit bottom. Oil (USO) is at my downside target of $85, copper (CU) is rapidly approaching my $3.00/pound goal, and gold (GLD) keeps bouncing off of my $1,500 floor.

Since equities were the last to top, they may become the last to bottom. Therefore, I think we may be two thirds of the way through this downturn on a price basis, but only half way on a time basis. That analysis sees a new major rally postponed until August at the earliest. It also made 1,250 the next stop on the downside and 1,250 an obvious medium term target.

For those who took my advice to sell in May and go away, good for you. Go blow your profits on a vacation in the Hamptons this summer. And have a mojito for me.