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Yesterday's U.S. Economic News

ADP: 158,000 private-sector jobs added in October ( ADP ) (by Steve Goldstein)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- ADP said 158,000 private-sector jobs were created in October, with service-providing jobs accounting for 144,000 positions and goods producing jobs responsible for 14,000 new jobs. This was the first release after ADP adopted a methodology, including increasing the sample size. "Businesses are adding consistently to their payrolls. October's job gains were in line with the average monthly gains of the past two years, with sturdy albeit less than stellar growth across most industries and company sizes. Businesses have turned more cautious in recent months, but that has yet to impact their hiring and firing decisions," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, in a statement.

Planned layoffs jump up in October: Challenger (by Ruth Mantell)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Led by the automotive sector, planned job cuts jumped up 41% in October to almost 48,000, the highest level since May, outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas said Thursday. "The final three months of the year tend to see heavier downsizing activity as companies make year-end adjustments to meet earnings goals and to prepare for the new year," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "Certainly, the deluge of weak third-quarter earnings reports that resulted from declining sales here and abroad does not bode well for workers as 2013 approaches." Job cuts in October were up 12% from last year. In September, employers announced about 34,000 cuts for the second lowest monthly result in almost two years. Despite the latest gain, job cuts are running at a slower pace this year, with the 434,000 cuts announced through October about 17% below the same period in 2011.

U.S. third-quarter productivity rises 1.9% (by Jeffry Bartash)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - U.S. productivity rose 1.9% in the third quarter as the output of goods and services rose faster than the amount of time employees worked. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected productivity to climb by 2%. The Labor Department said output rose 3.2% in the July-to-September period, while hours worked increased at a slower 1.3% rate. Both output and hours worked were up sharply from the second quarter, though all the gains took place outside the manufacturing sector. Unit-labor costs fell by 0.1% after rising 1.7% in the second quarter. Hourly wages rose 1.8%, but after adjusting for inflation, they actually fell 0.4%, the biggest decline in three quarters. In the manufacturing sector, productivity dropped 0.4% following a 0.2% increase in the second quarter. Output and hours both fell, as did inflation-adjusted wages. In the second quarter, meanwhile, U.S. productivity was revised down to 1.9% from a prior estimate of 2.2%.

U.S. jobless claims drop 9,000 to 363,000 (by Jeffry Bartash)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 363,000 in the week of Oct. 21-27, keeping them in a range that indicates little change in U.S. hiring patterns over the past few months. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to fall to 365,000. Initial claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 372,000 from an original reading of 369,000, based on more complete data collected at the state level, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The number of filings were not affected by Sandy, a Labor analyst said, though the storm could skew the numbers in upcoming weeks. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 1,500 to 367,250. The four-week average reduces seasonal volatility in the weekly data and is seen as a more accurate barometer of labor-market trends. Also, Labor said continuing claims increased by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.26 million in the week ended Oct. 20. Continuing claims reflect the number of people already receiving benefits. About 5.04 million people received some kind of state or federal benefit in the week ended Oct. 13 up 112,147 from the prior week. Total claims are reported with a two-week lag.

Consumer-confidence gauge highest since 2008 (by Ruth Mantell)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Led by brighter views on present employment and business conditions, a gauge of consumer confidence jumped in October to the highest level since February 2008, the Conference Board reported Thursday. The consumer-confidence index increased to 72.2 in October from a downwardly revised 68.4 in September. A prior estimate for September pegged the level at 70.3. "Consumers were considerably more positive in their assessment of current conditions, with improvements in the job market as the major driver," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, a New York research group. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected an October level of 73, citing declining unemployment, among other factors. Generally when the economy is growing at a good clip, confidence readings are at least 90.

ISM index inches up to 51.7% in October from 51.5% (by Jeffry Bartash)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - American manufacturers expanded at a slightly faster pace in October, according to a closely followed survey. The Institute for Supply Management's index of purchasing managers - the executives who order raw materials and other goods - edged up to 51.7% in October from 51.5% in September and a three-year-low of 49.6% in August. The ISM report surpassed Wall Street expectations. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast the index to fall to 50.5%. Readings above 50% indicate business is improving; readings under 50% signal deterioration. New orders rose to 54.2% from 52.3% and the production index gained 2.9 points to 52.4%. The employment and exports indexes declined, however.

U.S. Sept. construction spending up 0.6% (by Greg Robb)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - Outlays for U.S. construction projects rebounded in September, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Construction spending rose 0.6% in September, close to analysts' expectations of a 0.5% gain. Spending is at its highest level since 2009. The government also revised spending higher for the last two months. The decline in August construction spending was revised up to a 0.1% decline from the previous estimate of a 0.6% drop. The 0.4% drop in July was revised to an 0.2% gain. In September, spending on private construction rose 1.3% while spending on public projects fell 0.8%. Spending on private homebuilding jumped 2.8% in the month