What I’m Watching This Week – 15 July 2019

The Markets (as of market close July 12, 2019)

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 reached new record highs last week. The Dow surged past 27000 for the first time, while the S&P 500 surpassed the 3000 threshold. Anticipated testimony from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell lent credence to the expected interest rate cut at the end of the month. Powell indicated that “uncertainties around trade tensions and concerns about the strength of the global economy continue to weigh on the U.S. economic outlook.” In addition to news that interest rates may decrease, the anticipated trade talks between the United States and China, coupled with last week’s strong jobs report, provided a boost to stocks. Along with a strong performance from the large-cap indexes, the tech-heavy Nasdaq enjoyed a good week and leads the way year-to-date, up almost 25.0%. The small caps didn’t fare quite as well, recording modest losses last week.

Oil prices surged ahead last week, climbing to $60.32 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $57.69. The price of gold (COMEX) rebounded last week, jumping to $1,416.30 by late Friday afternoon, ahead of the prior week’s price of $1,402.10. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.743 per gallon on July 8, 2019, $0.030 higher than the prior week’s price but $0.114 less than a year ago.

Market/Index 2018 Close Prior Week As of 7/12 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 23327.46 26922.12 27332.03 1.52% 17.17%
Nasdaq 6635.28 8161.79 8244.14 1.01% 24.25%
S&P 500 2506.85 2990.41 3013.77 0.78% 20.22%
Russell 2000 1348.56 1575.62 1570.00 -0.36% 16.42%
Global Dow 2736.74 3102.14 3108.53 0.21% 13.59%
Fed. Funds target rate 2.25%-2.50% 2.25%-2.50% 2.25%-2.50% 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.68% 2.00% 2.10% 10 bps -58 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic Headlines

  • Inflationary pressures at the consumer level remained tame in June, according to the latest Consumer Price Index. Consumer prices for goods and services inched up 0.1% last month, the same increase as in May. Over the last 12 months, the CPI has increased 1.6%. Keeping the CPI in check was a 2.3% drop in energy prices. Otherwise, the index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3% in June, its largest monthly increase since January 2018. Prices for apparel used cars and trucks, and household furnishings all boasted strong increases in June. The strength of this report could make some members of the Federal Reserve think twice about cutting interest rates when the Committee meets at the end of the month.
  • The Producer Price Index, which measures goods and services prices before reaching the consumer, advanced 0.1% in June, the same increase as in May, and comparable to the increases the CPI has experienced over the same 2 months. Over the last 12 months, the PPI has risen 1.7%. Within the index, services rose 0.4% in June, the largest increase since climbing 0.8% in October 2018. Conversely, goods moved down 0.4% in June, the largest decrease since falling 0.6% in January. Most of the drop in goods prices is attributable to a 5.0% fall in gasoline prices. Excluding food and energy, producer prices rose 0.3% in June and 2.3% over the last 12 months.
  • The government deficit for June was $8.5 billion, significantly lower than the May deficit of $207.8 billion. Individual income taxes provided the largest source of revenue for the government in June, totaling $141.1 billion. The government’s largest monthly expenditure in June was for Social Security, which exceeded $780 billion. For the fiscal year, which began last October, the government deficit sits at $747.1 billion. Over the same period last fiscal year, the deficit was $607.1 billion.
  • According to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were far more job openings than hires in May. The number of job openings was little changed at 7.3 million on the last business day of May compared to April. The number of hires decreased by 266,000 to 5.7 million in May. The number of separations fell 192,000 in May from the prior month. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee. Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs. The number of quits was little changed in May at 3.4 million. The quits rate was 2.3%. Net employment change results from the relationship between hires and separations. Over the 12 months ended in May, hires totaled 69.5 million and separations totaled 66.9 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.6 million.
  • For the week ended July 6, there were 209,000 claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 13,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 1,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended June 29. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended June 29 was 1,723,000, an increase of 27,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 10,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Industrial production has been lagging, perhaps due, in part, to the ongoing trade impasse between the United States and China. This week’s report on industrial production for June from the Federal Reserve will provide the latest information on the manufacturing sector.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 8 July 2019

The Markets (as of market close July 5, 2019)

Last week, June’s labor report was strong enough to likely prompt the Fed to hold interest rates at their current level (and forestall a rate cut). Feeding off the latest labor figures, stocks pushed ahead during the holiday-shortened week as each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted gains. The Nasdaq led the way, gaining close to 2.0%, followed by the large caps of the S&P 500 and the Dow, each of which enjoyed a solid week. The Global Dow gained close to 1.0%, despite evidence of a slowing global economy. Pulling up the rear was the Russell 2000, which added over 0.5% in value by last week’s end. Despite the performance of stocks, long-term bond yields held steady as prices inched down marginally.

Oil prices fell to $57.69 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s price of $58.16. The price of gold (COMEX) fell last week, dropping to $1,402.10 by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s price of $1,413.30. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.713 per gallon on July 1, 2019, $0.059 higher than the prior week’s price but $0.131 less than a year ago.

Market/Index 2018 Close Prior Week As of 7/5 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 23327.46 26599.96 26922.12 1.21% 15.41%
Nasdaq 6635.28 8006.24 8161.79 1.94% 23.01%
S&P 500 2506.85 2941.76 2990.41 1.65% 19.29%
Russell 2000 1348.56 1566.57 1575.62 0.58% 16.84%
Global Dow 2736.74 3074.41 3102.14 0.90% 13.35%
Fed. Funds target rate 2.25%-2.50% 2.25%-2.50% 2.25%-2.50% 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.68% 2.00% 2.04% 4 bps -64 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic Headlines

  • There were 224,000 new jobs added in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment growth has averaged 172,000 per month thus far this year, compared with an average monthly gain of 223,000 in 2018. In June, notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, and transportation and warehousing. Both the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed inched up in June compared to May. The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 3.7%, and the number of unemployed increased from 5.9 million in May to 6.0 million in June. The number of those unemployed for 27 weeks or longer increased 116,000 to 1.4 million in June from the prior month. The labor force participation rate inched up 0.1 percentage point to 62.9%. In June, the employment-population ratio was 60.6% for the fourth month in a row. The average workweek for all employees was unchanged at 34.4 hours in June. Average hourly earnings rose by $0.06 to $27.90 in June, following a $0.09 gain in May. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.1%.
  • The two main sources for predicting manufacturing activity according to purchasing managers, the Institute for Supply Management® and IHS Markit, each reported that operating conditions in the manufacturing sector were relatively stagnant in June. The Markit report saw its manufacturing index inch up 0.1 percentage point to 50.6 in June compared to May. New order growth was the slowest it has been in almost three years. As output waned, manufacturers reined in hiring at its slowest pace in several years. Inflationary pressures remained muted despite slight accelerations in rates of output charge and input price inflation.
  • The report from the Institute for Supply Management® saw its purchasing manufacturing index fall 0.4 percentage point in June from May. Survey respondents reported that new orders fell, while production and new hires increased.
  • In the non-manufacturing or services sector, business slowed in June to its lowest rate in almost two years, according to the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®. New orders, employment, and business activity (production) each dropped off in June, while costs edged up. This report, coupled with the reports on business activity in the manufacturing sector, may reinforce the expectation that the Federal Reserve will reduce interest rates later this summer.
  • The Census Bureau reported last week that the goods and services international trade deficit was $55.5 billion in May, up $4.3 billion from the April deficit. May exports were $210.6 billion, $4.2 billion more than April exports. May imports were $266.2 billion, $8.5 billion more than April imports. Year-to-date, the goods, and services deficit increased $15.7 billion, or 6.4%, from the same period in 2018. Exports increased $5.1 billion, or 0.5%. Imports increased $20.8 billion, or 1.6%. May figures show monthly surpluses with South and Central America ($4.1 billion and Hong Kong ($2.6 billion). Notable monthly trade deficits in May existed with China ($30.1 billion), the European Union ($16.9 billion), Mexico ($9.1 billion), and Japan ($6.0 billion).
  • For the week ended June 29, there were 221,000 claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 2,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended June 22. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended June 22 was 1,686,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 6,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Inflationary pressures have been weak for much of the year. This week, both the Consumer Price Index and the Producer Price Index for June are out and will provide a good indication of the direction of consumer prices for the rest of the summer.

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Quarterly Market Review – April – June 2019

The second quarter was full of ups and downs for stocks as investors had plenty to worry about. Throughout the quarter, the trade war between the United States and China ebbed and flowed as news continuously changed from positive to negative. Employment was steady and the unemployment rate remained low, but wage growth was moderate at best. Manufacturing and industrial production hit a snag during the second quarter, as did business fixed investment.

April saw stocks post solid returns as each of the benchmark indexes listed here enjoyed gains of at least 2.5%. The yield on 10-year Treasuries increased by 10 basis points as prices fell. A solid start to corporate earnings season helped support stocks, as did low-interest rates and weak consumer price pressures. The March labor report helped quell investors’ fears, as almost 200,000 new jobs were added. As to the major indexes listed here, the Nasdaq led the way, gaining over 4.7%, followed by the S&P 500, which closed the month up by almost 4.0%. The small caps of the Russell 2000 and the Global Dow each rose by nearly 3.3%. The Dow, while pulling up the rear, still gained over 2.5% by the end of April.

Unfortunately, the gains of April were lost in May as stocks fell sharply, closing out their worst month since last December. Encouraging rhetoric at the end of April that a trade deal could be reached between the United States and China was quickly replaced in early May with the imposition of new tariffs on U.S. imports from China. Retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports entering China soon followed. The Nasdaq and Russell 2000 fell almost 8.0% in May, while the S&P 500, Dow, and Global Dow each dropped by more than 6.5%. Money moved from stocks to bonds, driving prices higher and yields lower. The yield on 10-year Treasuries sank 37 basis points to close May at 2.13%. Crude oil prices, which had exceeded $60 per barrel in April, plummeted by almost $10 per barrel by the end of May.

Stocks rebounded during the middle of June and soared by the end of the month. The tech-heavy Nasdaq led the monthly gains, reaching almost 7.5%, followed by the Dow, which also gained over 7.0% for the month. The Fed’s decision to hold interest rates helped drive investors to stocks. Still, investors sought long-term bonds, driving prices higher and yields lower.

Ultimately, stocks posted solid gains by the end of the second quarter. Each of the benchmark indexes listed here closed the quarter with gains, although not close to the double-digit returns earned at the end of the first quarter. Low inflation, the trade war between China and the United States, and news that the Fed is considering lowering interest rates helped quell investors’ concerns. The large caps of the S&P 500 led the way at the end of the second quarter, gaining 3.79%, followed closely by the tech stocks of the Nasdaq, the Dow, the Global Dow, and the small caps of the Russell 2000, which eked out a quarterly gain of 1.74%. By the close of trading on June 28, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $58.16 per barrel, up from the May 31 price of $53.33 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.654 per gallon on June 24, down from the May 27 selling price of $2.822 and $0.179 lower than a year ago. The price of gold soared by the end of June, rising to $1,413.30 by close of business on the 28th, up from $1,310.30 at the end of May.

Market/Index 2018 Close As of June 28 Monthly Change Quarterly Change YTD Change
DJIA 23327.46 26599.96 7.19% 2.59% 14.03%
NASDAQ 6635.28 8006.24 7.42% 3.58% 20.66%
S&P 500 2506.85 2941.76 6.89% 3.79% 17.35%
Russell 2000 1348.56 1566.57 6.90% 1.74% 16.17%
Global Dow 2736.74 3074.41 6.45% 2.45% 12.34%
Fed. Funds 2.25%-2.50% 2.25%-2.50% 0 bps 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.68% 2.00% -13 bps -40 bps -68 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Latest Economic Reports

  • Employment: Total employment edged up 75,000 in May after adding 224,000 (revised) new jobs in April. The average monthly job gain in 2019 was 164,000 per month (223,000 in 2018). Notable employment increases for May occurred in professional and business services (33,000) and health care (16,000). The unemployment rate remained at 3.6% in May after falling 0.2 percentage point in April. The number of unemployed persons was little changed at 5.9 million. The labor participation rate was 62.8% and the employment-population ratio was 60.6% — both unchanged in May. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.4 hours for May. Average hourly earnings increased by $0.06 to $27.83. Over the last 12 months ended in May, average hourly earnings have risen 3.1%.
  • FOMC/interest rates: As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee did not change interest rates following its latest meeting in June. Lack of price inflation and slowing economic growth underscored the Committee’s reluctance to raise rates. In fact, there is a growing sentiment among Committee members to lower rates in the near future, as projections released by the FOMC in June show the federal funds rate range at between 1.9% and 2.4% by the end of 2019.
  • GDP/budget: The third and final estimate of the first-quarter gross domestic product showed the economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.1%. The GDP expanded at a rate of 2.2% for the fourth quarter of 2018. Driving the growth rate increase was an upturn in nonresidential (business) fixed investment, state and local government spending, and exports, coupled with a smaller decrease in residential investment. These movements were partly offset by decelerations in consumer spending (0.9% in the first quarter compared to 2.5% in the fourth quarter). The federal budget deficit was $207.8 billion in May after enjoying a surplus of $160.3 billion in April ($146.8 billion in May 2018). Through the first eight months of the fiscal year, the government deficit sits at $738.6 billion. Over the same period for fiscal year 2018, the deficit was $532.2 billion.
  • Inflation/consumer spending: Inflationary pressures remain weak as consumer prices are up 1.5% over the last 12 months ended in May. Consumer prices excluding food and energy are up 1.6% over the same 12-month period. For the month, consumer prices rose 0.2% over April, when prices increased 0.3%. In May, consumer spending rose 0.4% (0.6% in April). Personal income and disposable (after-tax) personal income climbed 0.5% in May, respectively, matching the same increases as in April.
  • The Consumer Price Index increased 0.1% in May after rising 0.3% in April and 0.4% in March. Over the 12 months ended in May, the CPI rose 1.8%. The food index rose 0.3% in May after declining in April, with the food index accounting for nearly half of the May CPI monthly increase. The energy index fell 0.6% in May, with the gasoline index falling 0.5%. Core prices, less food, and energy, also inched up 0.1% in May for the fourth consecutive month. Core prices have risen 2.0% over the 12 months ended in May.
  • According to the Producer Price Index, the prices companies received for goods and services rose 0.1% in May after climbing 0.2% in April. The index increased 1.8% for the 12 months ended in May. The index less foods, energy, and trade services moved up 0.4% in May, the same increase as in April, and has increased 2.3% over the last 12 months.
  • Housing: Activity in the housing market can be described as erratic at best. Existing home sales rose 2.5% in May after registering no change in April from the prior month. Year-over-year, existing home sales remain down 1.1% (4.4% for the 12 months ended in April). Existing home prices continue to rise, as the May median price for existing homes was $277,700, up from $267,300 the prior month. Existing home prices were up 4.8% from May 2018. Total housing inventory for existing homes for sale in May increased to 1.92 million, up from 1.83 million existing homes available for sale in April and 2.7% ahead of sales a year ago. Sales of new single-family houses fell a whopping 7.8% in May following an April dip of 3.8% (revised). New home sales are now 3.7% below their May 2018 estimate. The median sales price of new houses sold in May was $308,000 ($342,200 in April). The average sales price was $377,200 ($393,700 in April). Inventory at the end of May was at a supply of 6.4 months (5.9 months in April).
  • Manufacturing: According to the Federal Reserve, industrial production rebounded in May, rising 0.4%, after falling 0.4% in April. In May, the indexes for manufacturing and mining gained 0.2% and 0.1%, respectively, while the index for utilities climbed 2.1%. Total industrial production was 2.0% higher in May than it was a year earlier. After showing signs of life during the first quarter, durable goods orders fell 1.3% in May after dropping 2.8% (revised) in April. New orders for transportation equipment drove the decrease, plummeting 4.6% for the month.
  • Imports and exports: In another sign that inflationary pressures are weak, import prices fell 0.3% in May after advancing 0.1% in April. This is the first monthly decline since a 1.4% decline in December. Import fuel prices declined 1.0% in May, after rising 25.4% over the previous four months. Nonfuel import prices were also down, falling 0.3% in May. Year-to-date, import prices are down 1.5% — the largest year-over-year decline since August 2016. Prices for exports dropped 0.2% in May following a 0.1% bump in April. Export prices have fallen 0.7% since May 2018. The latest information on international trade in goods and services, out June 6, is for April and shows that the goods and services deficit was $50.8 billion, down from the $51.9 billion deficit in March. April exports were $206.8 billion, $4.6 billion less than March exports. April imports were $257.6 billion, $5.7 billion less than March imports. Year-to-date, the goods, and services deficit increased $4.1 billion, or 2.0%, from the same period in 2018. Exports increased $8.3 billion, or 1.0%. Imports increased $12.4 billion, or 1.2%. The advance report on international trade in goods (excluding services) revealed the trade deficit to be $74.5 billion in May, up from the $70.6 billion deficit in April. Goods exports in May were $4.1 billion more than the prior month, while imports of goods were $7.8 billion more than April’s goods imports.
  • International markets: Escalating tensions between the United States and Iran have added to the already nervous world economy. In response to another round of tariffs imposed by the United States, China is lowering tariffs on imports it receives from other countries while raising duties on imports received from America. The United Kingdom’s gross domestic product fell sharply in April, down 0.4%, which marks the steepest drop since March 2016.
  • Consumer confidence: The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® fell to 121.5 in June, down from May’s index of 131.3. The Present Situation Index — based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions — decreased from 170.7 to 162.6. The Expectations Index — based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions — decreased from 105.0 last month to 94.1 in June.

Eye on the Month Ahead

The third quarter of the year will likely bring much of the same tumult as was found in the second quarter. Employment should remain strong, although wage growth has been relatively slow. It is worth noting that the Federal Open Market Committee has scaled back its views on economic growth and inflationary trends. In response, interest rates are not likely to increase in the foreseeable future and actually may be reduced. In any case, it appears that the ongoing trade war with China, coupled with tensions between the United States and Iran, will continue to impact the world economy and the U.S. stock market.

What I’m Watching This Week – 1 July 2019

The Markets (as of market close June 28, 2019)

With a strong close last Friday, stocks recovered most of the losses endured earlier last week. Only the Russell 2000 posted a weekly gain and has climbed over 16% year-to-date. The other benchmark indexes listed here lost value, but not as much as it could have been. The Dow had the worst week, falling almost 0.50%, followed by the Nasdaq, the S&P 500, and the Global Dow, which fell 0.23%. Investors may be waiting for the meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 meeting in Japan, which began late last Friday evening, New York time. The yield on 10-year Treasuries actually dipped below 2.0% earlier last week, ultimately closing at 2.0% by late last Friday. Investors purchased the Treasuries in large volumes, driving prices higher and, correspondingly, yields lower.

Oil prices rose to $58.16 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $57.60. The price of gold (COMEX) continued to climb last week, reaching $1,413.30 by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $1,402.70. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.654 per gallon on June 24, 2019, $0.016 lower than the prior week’s price and $0.179 less than a year ago.

Market/Index 2018 Close Prior Week As of 6/28 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 23327.46 26719.13 26599.96 -0.45% 14.03%
Nasdaq 6635.28 8031.71 8006.24 -0.32% 20.66%
S&P 500 2506.85 2950.46 2941.76 -0.29% 17.35%
Russell 2000 1348.56 1549.63 1566.57 1.09% 16.17%
Global Dow 2736.74 3081.62 3074.41 -0.23% 12.34%
Fed. Funds target rate 2.25%-2.50% 2.25%-2.50% 2.25%-2.50% 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.68% 2.06% 2.00% -6 bps -68 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic Headlines

  • The third and final estimate of the first-quarter gross domestic product revealed the economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.1%. The fourth-quarter GDP increased 2.2%. Real gross domestic income increased 1.0% in the first quarter, compared with an increase of 0.5% in the fourth quarter. The average of GDP and GDI, a supplemental measure of U.S. economic activity that equally weights GDP and GDI, increased 2.1% in the first quarter, compared with an increase of 1.3% in the fourth quarter. Consumer spending (personal consumption expenditures) increased only 0.9% after climbing 2.5% in the fourth quarter. On the other hand, nonresidential fixed investment (business spending) grew by 4.4% compared with 2.3% in the fourth quarter.
  • Consumer spending fell by 0.2 percentage point in May, coming in at 0.4% compared to April. Personal income and disposable (after-tax) personal income each rose 0.5% in May. Prices for consumer goods and services remained stable in May, rising a scant 0.2%. Consumer prices are up 1.5% for the year — well below the Federal Reserve’s 2.0% inflation target.
  • Sales of new single-family homes fell 7.8% in May and are 3.7% below the May 2018 estimate. The median sales price of new houses sold in May 2019 was $308,000. The average sales price was $377,200. The estimate of new houses for sale at the end of May was 333,000. This represents a supply of 6.4 months at the current sales rate.
  • New orders for durable goods fell 1.3% in May, driven down by new orders for transportation equipment, which fell 4.6% (commercial aircraft plummeted by 28.2%). This decrease, down three of the last four months, followed a 2.8% April decrease. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.3%. Excluding defense, new orders decreased 0.6%. Shipments of manufactured durable goods in May, up following two consecutive monthly decreases, increased 0.4%. Business investment perked up in May as new orders for core capital goods (excluding aircraft and defense) increased 0.4%.
  • The international trade in goods deficit for May was $74.5 billion, up $3.6 billion from April. Exports of goods for May were $140.2 billion, $4.1 billion more than April exports. Imports of goods for May were $214.7 billion, $7.8 billion more than April imports.
  • For the week ended June 22, there were 227,000 claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 1,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended June 15. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended June 15 was 1,688,000, an increase of 22,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 4,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

This should be a relatively quiet week for stock trading and economic news. The major report out at the end of the week reveals the employment figures for June.

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