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Takeaway: Claims remain benign but slowly/surely what has been great is now transitioning to good. We're getting later in what is already late cycle.

The current labor market trend shows a subtle shift from great to good. Initial claims, put in their low watermark ~6 wks ago and are now in a 1.5 steps back, 1 step forward re-convergence higher, moving back toward 300k. While anything sub-300k isn't "bad" per se - remember, it's what happens on the margin that counts. This is especially true when the market is stretched on longer-term valuation metrics and is entering the upper echelons of historical bull market duration.

Outside of claims, yesterday's ADP print came in light vs expectations at 190k (consensus was looking for 210k) and this happened last month as well when consensus was also looking for 210k and ADP delivered 185k. On the NFP front, the last two months (June/July) have been in-line with expectations, but that actually follows the same great to good pattern, as the May NFP print was a 280k blow-out (consensus was 220k). 

It's not easy to tease out exact causation here, but a few possibilities come to mind. One possibility is the inevitability of late cycle reality --> great becomes good (early late cycle --> mid late cycle) and then good becomes less good (mid late cycle --> late late cycle) and, eventually, less good becomes bad (late late cycle --> recession). Another possibility is that the confluence of fears from real energy sector headwinds, August market weakness and rising Global Macro uncertainty are conspiring to facilitate that first shift downward from great to good. It's also possible (likely, even) that the latter is simply this cycle's causal factor for the former.

The bottom line is that, like that old broken record, we're here to again remind you that it's late cycle and it's time to start preparing for the inevitable cyclical downturn. Below is a table of 1yr beta across Financials and below that is a table showing the best to worst early, mid and late cycle Financials subsectors.

INITIAL JOBLESS CLAIMS | LATE CYCLE & BETA DEFENSE - Beta Fins Table

INITIAL JOBLESS CLAIMS | LATE CYCLE & BETA DEFENSE - relative subsector performance chart v2

The Data

Prior to revision, initial jobless claims rose 11k to 282k from 271k WoW, as the prior week's number was revised down by -1k to 270k.

The headline (unrevised) number shows claims were higher by 12k WoW. Meanwhile, the 4-week rolling average of seasonally-adjusted claims rose 3.25k WoW to 275.5k.

The 4-week rolling average of NSA claims, another way of evaluating the data, was -9.0% lower YoY, which is a sequential deterioration versus the previous week's YoY change of -9.5%

INITIAL JOBLESS CLAIMS | LATE CYCLE & BETA DEFENSE - Claims18 

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Yield Spreads

The 2-10 spread fell -3 basis points WoW to 147 bps. 3Q15TD, the 2-10 spread is averaging 156 bps, which is lower by -2 bps relative to 2Q15.

INITIAL JOBLESS CLAIMS | LATE CYCLE & BETA DEFENSE - Claims15

INITIAL JOBLESS CLAIMS | LATE CYCLE & BETA DEFENSE - Claims16

Joshua Steiner, CFA

Jonathan Casteleyn, CFA, CMT