From Main Street to Silicon Valley: U.S. Economy Hits Sweet Spot

The first U.S. jobs report of 2024 was a blockbuster. What’s more, three mega-cap technology bellwethers released operating results that were generally strong, albeit with a few caveats.

As of this writing Friday, it’s apparent that the U.S. economy is flourishing, without accelerating to the degree that it might reignite inflation and jeopardize Federal Reserve interest rate cuts. There is no urgency on the Fed right now to either raise or cut rates.

The economy isn’t overheating; it’s recovering. Think of the current investment climate as “Goldilocks 2.0.”

First, let’s parse the jobs market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday released a January employment report that saw 353,000 jobs added, well above expectations.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 353,000 in January, and the unemployment rate remained steady at 3.7%. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, retail trade, and social assistance. Employment declined in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry.

The consensus of economists had called for the economy to gain 185,00 jobs in the January survey, the actual report blew past that figure.

Average hourly earnings climbed 0.6%, double the monthly estimate. On a year-over-year basis, wages jumped 4.5%, exceeding the 4.1% forecast.

The following chart tells the bullish story:

Friday’s jobs report for the month of January was so powerful, even the chronic naysayers will have a difficult time in trying to spin the numbers as negative…but they’re likely to try. Don’t be swayed by pretzel logic. Partisans intent on bad-mouthing the economy are now resorting to the absurd argument that the government numbers are fake.

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Here’s a snap quiz. Who made the following statement this week:

“Let’s be honest, this is a good economy.”

Was it President Joe Biden, or a Democratic supporter of the president? Was it a liberal op-ed writer? Nope. It was Fed Chair Jerome Powell, a registered Republican who was originally nominated to the position by Donald Trump. Powell made that statement about the current state of the economy at his Wednesday press conference.

To be sure, the solid jobs report will make the Fed more cautious in implementing an interest rate cut, but Powell on Wednesday also made it clear that a cut wasn’t in the cards in March anyway. The January jobs report isn’t enough to change the current narrative on monetary policy. The economy is strong, but inflation continues to fall.

Big Tech shows strength…

After the closing bell Thursday, we got pivotal report cards from a trio of Silicon Valley titans.

Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) released quarterly operating results that beat expectations on the top and bottom lines, but falling iPhone sales concerned analysts.

Apple reported earnings per share (EPS) of $2.18 for the December quarter, an EPS record for the company and above estimated EPS of $2.11. Revenue also topped analysts’ expectations for the quarter at $119.6 billion, representing Apple’s first revenue increase in a year.

But Wall Street is worried about Apple’s prospects for future growth. Revenue out of China, the company’s third largest region after North America and Europe, was lower than anticipated, reaching $20.8 billion versus forecasts of $23.5 billion.

Last year, the company reported Greater China sales of $23.9 billion in the first quarter; this year’s quarterly number represents a year-over-year decline of 13%. Apple is contending with a sputtering Chinese economy and a resurgent Huawei.

Meta Platforms (NSDQ: META) reported a tripling of profits in the fourth quarter and announced its first-ever cash dividend. Meta’s decision to issue a dividend was a rare move for a high-growth tech company and investors applauded.

The Facebook parent’s revenue rose 25% in the quarter, from $32.2 billion a year earlier, reflecting recovery in the online ad market.

Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) reported fourth-quarter results that blew past analysts’ estimates. The e-commerce behemoth also issued robust guidance for the current quarter.

AMZN’s EPS came in at $1.00 vs. 80 cents expected; revenue was $170 billion vs. $166.2 billion expected. Amazon Web Services revenue was $24.2 billion, in line with estimates. Advertising revenue was $14.7 billion vs. estimates of $14.2 billion.

On Friday, the three tech stocks closed as follows: AAPL -0.54%; META +20.32%; AMZN +7.87%.

The main U.S. stock market indices closed mostly higher as follows:

  • DJIA: +0.35%
  • S&:P 500: +1.07%
  • NASDAQ: +1.74%
  • Russell 2000: -0.59%

The indices notched another winning week; the S&P 500 closed at a record. Treasury yields popped higher.

Friday’s big news…

China is a persistent weak spot for Apple, as the country grapples with decelerating economic growth, a real estate crisis, soaring youth unemployment, and other woes.

But you can still make money on Apple…without actually buying the company’s shares.

On Friday, February 2, Apple released its new Vision Pro device, a headset that’s already shaking up the virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) market.

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John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily.

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