Factories Show Increased Bullish Hiring
By Saghir Aslam
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

 

(The following information is provided solely to educate the Muslim community about investing and financial planning. It is hoped that the Ummah will benefit from this effort through greater financial empowerment, enabling the community to live in security and dignity and fulfill their religious and moral obligations towards charitable activities)

The acceleration in US hiring was surprisingly sharp and broad-based, a sector that has had a particularly rough 21 st century-manufacturing-offered one of the biggest signals.

US factories added 28,000 jobs in November, the most in a year. Manufacturers also raised the average work week for their production workers to 42.2 hours, returning to levels reached earlier in 2014 that were the highest since the end of World War Two.

We are definitely in growth mode. After hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of jobs during the first decade of this century, the US factory sector is now an example of America’s economic upswing even as a slowing global economy and a stronger dollar clouds the outlook for exporters.

Employers added 321,000 workers to their payrolls last month, with strong gains in most sectors, from construction and retail to finance. In manufacturing, the rise in hours worked was particularly illustrative because it could signal further hiring.

Manufacturers are getting just about all they can out of their current workforce. An economist at Ameriprise Financial in Troy, Michigan. “As long as they see new orders come in the door, they are going to hire more employees to satisfy those orders.”

While part-time employment has climbed significantly since the 2007-09 recession, a brisker pace of businesses across the economy to give their workers more hours as well. While a top Federal Reserve official said this week that faster wage growth could be around the corner, Friday’s data suggested that manufacturers and other firms still had leverage in setting wages even as they expanded their payrolls. Across the private sector as a whole, average hourly earnings were up just 2.1 percent over the past year.

It is the season of abundance, but sometimes abundance is the last thing financial markets need. Shares fell on Monday as two stories troubled investors; the low and falling price of oil and the disappointing retail taking-over the Black Friday shopping weekend.

Both in their own way were stories about the risks of abundance. Brent crude fell to its lowest in five years, down as astounding 34 percent since June. While the immediate cause of a spectacular fall last week was the failure of oil-producing nations to agree on production cuts, the fundamental story is one of the new supplies coming online.

Similarly, news that shoppers spent 11.3percent less this year over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend sent a chill through investors, perhaps contributing to a rapid fall in the value of Apple shares. Cyber Monday, a day in which many retailers try to spark online shopping with sales, also looked slightly disappointing, according to industry projections.

There is an old adage of investing: Never bet against human ingenuity. Don’t take risks based on the idea that a given commodity will remain just as scarce, or a given business model just as defensible against competition.

Now to be clear, all of these surfeits are very good things if you want to heat your house or order olive oil over the Internet. But they are just not very helpful to those who already have made investments in the way crude and extra virgin have traditionally been obtained or distributed.

Retail has seen its own revolution, one which is far from finished, as bricks and mortar give way to the bits and bytes of the Internet. While this has spawned all sorts of strategies among retailers, the common denominator is that it has made times continually tough, with tight margins and omnipresent competitors and fair-improved price transparency. Investors have reacted to this new landscape by assuming it is just a replacement for the old, run on the same lines. Poor Black Friday sales are a reminder that this may be a mistake.

Any kid with a new idea has a much better chance of putting it in place. Some might compete directly with Facebook or Amazon, but some indirectly, by attracting attention.

We as investors have a historic psychological bias towards expecting advantages to be persistent. We look at Facebook now just a bit like we foolishly looked at Barnes and Noble or Sears 30 years ago.

We look at a business and we get excited by its growth and revenues without truly comprehending how different the world has become. Abundance is justly celebrated, but can be dangerous to your wealth.

(Saghir A. Aslam only explains strategies and formulas that he has been using. He is merely providing information, and NO ADVICE is given. Mr Aslam does not endorse or recommend any broker, brokerage firm, or any investment at all, nor does he suggest that anyone will earn a profit when or if they purchase stocks, bonds or any other investments. All stocks or investment vehicles mentioned are for illustrative purposes only. Mr Aslam is not an attorney, accountant, real estate broker, stockbroker, investment advisor, or certified financial planner. Mr Aslam does not have anything for sale.)

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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