Stimulus talks have stalled. But the pressure to act is rising

What's happening: Higher claims for initial unemployment benefits over the past two weeks have been flagged as a warning sign as the health crisis worsens in a number of states, requiring fresh restrictions on movement.

Posted: Aug 2, 2020 11:22 AM
Updated: Aug 3, 2020 11:10 AM

A resilient US job market in May and June fed investor hopes that a strong economic recovery could quickly power the country out of a crippling recession.

But the jobs report for July, due this week, may serve as a reality check — raising pressure on Congress to push through another round of stimulus spending.

What's happening: Higher claims for initial unemployment benefits over the past two weeks have been flagged as a warning sign as the health crisis worsens in a number of states, requiring fresh restrictions on movement.

"With virus fears on the rise, jobs being lost and incomes squeezed, we feel the recovery could be much bumpier than markets seemingly do, and think we are in for some data disappointment over the next couple of months," James Knightley, chief international economist at ING, said in a recent note to clients.

Economists surveyed by Refinitiv predict that the US economy added nearly 1.4 million jobs last month. Those gains, while solid, would mark a pullback compared to the 4.8 million increase from June.

Signs of economic weakness should add pressure on Congress to come to terms on its next stimulus package. This week is crunch time ahead of lawmakers' summer recess.

A key benefit — an extra $600 per week in assistance for jobless Americans — expired last week. Whether to renew or reduce the benefits remains a major point of contention.

Time is of the essence. Without a stopgap measure, Americans could see a decline in income of $18 billion per week, according to Bank of America economists Michelle Meyer and Stephen Juneau. That would weigh on the spending that powers roughly two-thirds of the US economy.

Meyer and Juneau think that lawmakers can strike an agreement early this month. They expect the price tag to come in above the $1.1 trillion bill introduced by Senate Republicans, but well short of the $3.4 trillion legislation approved by House Democrats.

Don't overlook these strong performers

Knockout earnings for the biggest US tech companies are sapping up a lot of investor attention. But Amazon, Apple and Facebook aren't the only companies posting solid results during a pandemic.

Here are some smaller winners you may have missed:

  • Procter & Gamble: People are scrubbing down their homes and washing their dishes more often. That's a win for a company that owns brands like Tide laundry detergent and Dawn dish soap; sales rose 5% to $17.7 billion in April-to-June quarter compared to one year ago. P&G's stock is up 5% this year.
  • Scott's Miracle-Gro: Shares of the lawn care company have jumped 49% this year, with sales rising 28% in the most recent quarter as more people try out their green thumbs. Scott's Miracle-Gro raised its full-year guidance, citing "a year of unprecedented success."
  • Kellogg Company: Demand for cereal and frozen food helped Kellogg increase revenue 9% last quarter, excluding the impact of exchange rates and lines of business it sold last year. Kellogg also raised its full-year guidance. Shares are flat year-to-date.

Up next: Nintendo was a standout last quarter due to the success of its "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" game. The company is due to report its latest results this week.

Up next

Monday: China manufacturing data; Clorox and Tyson Foods earnings

Tuesday: BP, Cinemark, Activision Blizzard, Disney and Wynn Resorts earnings

Wednesday: ADP employment report; CVS, Moderna, New York Times, Office Depot, Hostess Brands and Square earnings

Thursday: Bank of England interest rate decision; Reserve Bank of India interest rate decision; initial US unemployment claims; ISM Non-Manufacturing Index; Nintendo, Hilton, Papa John's, ViacomCBS, Vista Outdoor, Uber, Yelp and Zillow earnings

Friday: US jobs report

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