1. ADP report projects only 139K February jobs
The number of the day is 139,000. That's how many new jobs the payroll-tracking firm ADP estimates the U.S. economy added in February. For those of you keeping score, that's below the 150,000-plus new jobs that economists were projecting. And combined with January's unimpressive 127,000 jobs added, the first couple of months of 2014 would be the nation's weakest back-to-back months since the summer of 2012.
In the details of the report, ADP referenced the brutal winter weather conditions for keeping consumers away from retailers, car dealerships, and any other business that requires going outside/risking frostbite to get to. That means that U.S. companies are most likely waiting for demand to rise back to normal levels before they start a-hirin'.
The takeaway is that before you get too nervous about the numbers, sit down, pour yourself some soothing chocolate milk, and keep in mind that the ADP report is just a preview of the official monthly employment report to released by the government on the first Friday of every month. Although Wall Street likes checking out the ADP estimate, it's the Labor Department's February jobs assessment due this Friday at 8:30 a.m. that investors will be tailgating.
Bugs Bunny is running scared after the Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:SWHC) gun company reported fourth-quarter earnings that crushed analyst expectations and handed the stock the biggest price gain in 18 months. Smith & Wesson makes popular handguns, and shareholders of the Springfield, Mass.-based company were packing heat with a 16% stock gain Wednesday on the positive report.
Gun sales of $146 million were enough to boost profits by 35% for the period than ended on Jan. 31. Gun-lovin' Americans stocked their arsenals to the max last year on fears that the government would take their arms with new and restrictive gun-control legislation following multiple shootings (unshockingly, Congress didn't act). This year, investors were expecting lackluster gun demand since they figured America was already locked and loaded.
But a popular new handgun kept gun buyers active. In fact, the Smith & Wesson CEO increased projections for full-year earnings for 2014. Wall Street's not the Wild West (we can't picture Yosemite Sam eating at the financial district's Shake Shack), but high-profit business tends to attract the green.
Looking for a light read? Then go and check out a food blog, because the Federal Reserve's "Beige Book" is more fun for economists. The report is released eight times a year and details how the central bank feels about the state of the U.S. economy -- but the most recent "Beige Book," released Wednesday, on how winter weather has been hurting U.S. growth had some notably entertaining deets worth sharing.
For instance, did you know that at one Philadelphia mall, Valentine's Day sales typically account for 40% of total February revenues, but because of this year's V-Day blizzard, sales were down 40%? Or that car dealerships in Minnesota were stuck paying mechanics overtime for cold-weather-related malfunctions? Or that economy-boosting family vacations are getting cancelled because schools are shortening spring breaks at the last minute thanks to all the snow days they've already had?
On the bright side, the low rate of recent gift card redemptions in New York is a sign that slow winter retail sales will bounce back when it starts warming up this spring (assuming spring happens this year). Who ever said the Fed wasn't fun?
- Weekly jobless claims
- January's factory orders
- Fourth-quarter corporate earnings: Skullcandy
Jack Kramer and Nick Martell have no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Automatic Data Processing. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.