Believe the jobs report or Apple?

Surprising strength in employment seems not to fit with fundamental economic weakness. The iPhone maker may be a clearer sign of what lies ahead for US companies.

By Bill_Fleckenstein Oct 12, 2012 2:00PM

Red arrow (digital) © Riko Pictures, PhotographerThe employment data released on Oct. 5 certainly raised some eyebrows. First off, the number of jobs created in September was almost exactly as expected, at 114,000, while the August number was revised up by better than 40,000 jobs.


But the big news was that somehow the unemployment rate dropped from 8.1% to 7.8% (expectations had been that it might tick up to 8.2%).


There appears to have been some sort of, shall we say, aberration in the data, as the household survey suggests that 873,000 jobs were added last month, an annualized rate of 10.5 million.


(That survey is used to calculate the unemployment rate, while the number of jobs created that gets focused on every month is a function of the establishment survey. So if you're scratching your head at how headline job growth of 114,000 generated a sizable drop in the headline unemployment rate, now you know.)


In addition to the squirrelliness of that giant number (the aforementioned 873,000), it seems an enormous amount (581,000) were part-time jobs of some sort.


Working backward

Joan McCullough, of East Shore Partners, in a letter to clients, said she thought something smelled fishy. When she talked to the Bureau of Labor Statistics about it, all the contact there could say was that they had received a number of phone calls, and the data were "suspicious," but other than that they couldn't really comment on it.


I will leave it to the tinfoil hat crowd (or former General Electric (GE) CEO Jack Welch) to discover the "truth." (Read about Welch's controversial Tweet on the subject here. But there is probably no one who doesn't think that the economic data are massaged. So whether this was pure statistical nonsense or some government employee had an agenda, I don't know.


But I will say that I would be willing to bet a serious amount of money that there were not 873,000 jobs created in the month of September, and I would expect that number to be revised away prospectively.


Riding the Apple-coaster

Turning from the macro to the micro, after another huge run this year, Apple (AAPL) has been a real drag on the Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) of late. The stock looks sick from a technical standpoint, though I would be the first to admit that I am an amateur technician at best.


I have no dog in this hunt, since I have no position in Apple, long or short. The reason I bring it up is because Apple is a very important holding in so many portfolios, and has a huge chunk of mindshare when it comes to investor psychology. For those who aren't involved I think it is an interesting example of what tops often look like. (I am assuming that Apple is making a top, though I don't have any short position, given that I don't have a strong case for suggesting that it may have peaked.)


There is no doubt that there is tremendous bullishness (and indeed, near euphoria) about Apple. Analysts have even gone so far this year as to suggest the company would soon get to a $1 trillion market capitalization. (This is something I find rather implausible, given the amount of revenue and continuing margins required to justify such a valuation).


However, one thing that the bulls tend to overlook is that the law of large numbers is in operation here, as is consumer fickleness. Tremendous numbers of extraordinarily successful products have been responsible for a large part of Apple's past growth and current revenues. To maintain its trajectory, that past success must not only be replicated, but topped, which is a very tall order.


Maybe its hype-er drive malfunctioned

The other thing that strikes me as a bit odd is that after Apple lowered its guidance for this quarter, and given the hype over its new phone, one would have thought people would be piling into it, knowing it would easily beat that guidance number.


Thus I find its recent weakness to be a potentially interesting market barometer. October generically causes people angst -- though I am not a big believer in the idea that this month automatically equals lower stock prices -- and the stock market has absorbed a fair amount of bad news, which hasn't mattered. But if bad news does start to matter, then the sledding may get a little rougher quickly.


At the time of publication, Bill Fleckenstein did not own or control shares of any company mentioned in this column.

Oct 13, 2012 1:55PM
everybody knows the unemployment numbers were fake, conveniently California who's in financial ruin wasn't included in the jobs report, funny ain't it, had it been included the unemployment numbers would've skyrocketed, so it's over libs, you can lie and cheat, screw around with the facts and figures,  but obama is done and so are you libs in general and you can thank your messiah obama, kick in the head libs ain't it?? heh
Oct 13, 2012 11:27AM
That's right any idiot knows that Temp, Seasonal and Part-Time jobs that only pay $8 to $9 an hour are not real jobs at all and no one can survive off of 20 hrs a week either. The Unemployment Numbers were messed around with. I have been looking for a job for almost a year now and I live in IL., I'm also on Unemployment as well and it's about ready to run out, so again tell me were did they create these so call 873,000 jobs, because once my Unemployment runs out if I don't have a job yet, it will appear that I do because I am no longer collecting Unemployment Benefits and I will no longer be a number in the system. Wow and I thought Wall Street People with degrees are suppose to be smart, no wonder why the Stock Market is tanking in the first place, no dam brains at all.

Oct 13, 2012 11:02AM

Trust me, the job numbers will be revised downwards in a Labor Department revision after the last presidential debate.  Then they will say it was a math mistake because there were inadequate people doing the counts because the Republicans cut back the budget..


The truth will come out soon about the Libyan embassy security failures.  It was a series of screw-ups starting at the White House and going downwards. 


Lets make Obama accountable for his lying and incompetancy by voiting out Obama-Biden ticket

Oct 13, 2012 12:13PM
No! How could anyone think that Chicago politics and cooking the books belong in the same sentence?
Oct 12, 2012 8:18PM

Apple is the stock of the decade. It has been nothing but a moneymaker. If Apple is showing any sign of weakness then that tells me that the whole stock market is ready to dive. The unemployment .... diddled in our face at 7.8% is pure crap. It's more like 12 - 15% and we all know it ... only some of us are willing to admit the crap the is being flung around the Obama camp.


Things are a mess and since Obama has been the pres for the last 4 years and since things were much better when he came into office then I would have to balme Obama and his band of misfits. Could there be a worse group then, Obama, Biden, Pelosi and reid. This is the allstar team for the special olympics. God help us.

Oct 13, 2012 12:23PM

Figures lie, and liars figure. End of story on this one.

Sorry Kool-aid drinkers.


Oct 12, 2012 11:20PM
When will they learn that just because the unemployment percentage is down, doesn't mean that there has been any new jobs added. Its just stating that more people's unemployment  benefits have ran out, not that they got jobs. Lying Government officials manipulate the stock market to get votes.
Oct 13, 2012 11:54AM

Another example of cooking the satistics to benefit the current administration. We have one of the lowest participation rates in decades and yet we seem to believe things are getting better? The only reason the appear that way is when people stop looking for work they are not counted anymore.

This in a normal recession that last for a limited tim does not affect the numbers of unemployed or job seakers. But in this lack luster recovery for the last 3 years or so has proven to be a problem for the unemployment numbers being accurate. But I guess if your a Democrat you will believe the headlines and the rest of us will of course look deeper into the numbers.

Oct 13, 2012 12:11PM
Couple job opening in Chicago Jesse Jackson Jr. is looking for some good lawyers.
Oct 13, 2012 12:37AM

hey prgprops,check GDP growth and then write another post.If anything we are headed toward another recession.

And Im not a tin foil hat wearing right-winger.

Oct 13, 2012 1:18AM
Anything to help Obama. Now tell me, what is wrong with this system in Government? Anyone with any brains can tell you that these numbers are as false as us having a President that really cares about a great America.......... How about 14.7%.....?
Oct 13, 2012 8:24PM
As much of a bunch of crap was the imaginary 7.8% number - it was comically followed by a big drop in unemployment filings - because California, ever the democrat state, took one for the team and neglected to turn their numbers in on time.  Coincidence ?  Nope
Oct 13, 2012 9:08AM
odummy is a lier the goverment is a lier there all a bunch of crooks, but the enemploment rat is the biggest crock they have lied about yet. more chicago poltics lie steal cheat blame every one else any thing to win thats all odummy knows
Oct 13, 2012 7:40AM

"The impact it has on our economy and how it helps us here in the U.S. is criminal. You have a push at this time of the year for part time work. I believe the true unemployment percentage is some where the 12 to 13%. The Fed has to make it look good after all, the present administration needs a push to get re-elected. I just don't like these idiots making false reports and insulting our intelligence."


Speaking of insulting intelligence, you should become part of the Main Street economy before you will comment on it. Sure, there are part time help signs everywhere. No one is taking those jobs. They pay $8/hour for 20 hours a week ($160). A tank of gas to get back and forth is now $50. Add lunch. A new pair of Levi's jeans is $68, a trucker jacket is $84. People living in the REAL world know this and don't take part time jobs that end up costing them money. Further, every big box retailer already cleared out the clearance racks and has the List Price goods nicely displayed. For whom? We shop in thrift stores and make our own (having been blockaded from YOUR economy). Go ahead and invest in a seasonal uptick but be sure you can afford to lose it. By the way... there has to be hiring before "working" exists so the holidays aren't impacting the count yet. Figure it out using your math skills... they will on-board AFTER 11/1 and terminate BEFORE 1/31 to ensure the temps won't qualify for unemployment.  

Oct 13, 2012 5:24PM
oh didn't see this coming!! jessie jerkson jr. being investigated? for corruption??? well like father like son, two thieving lying racist democraps! you libs just can't stay outta trouble can you?? funny how you libs talk 'bout 'greed' and evil wall st, and corruption and yet your always involved in it, up to your eyeballs in it, democrap after democrap after democrap is either being investigated or arrested for it, all your representatives claiming to be 'for the poor' and who are they stealing from??? their very own constituents!! corruption and greed is the common denominator in being a democrap, and you've got the nerve to call other people greedy and corrupt, fascinating!!!
Oct 13, 2012 7:30AM
As I see it, the attempt to falsely project this action by the Fed, and paint a rosy picture of what is actually going on in our Govt. is gravely misleading.  The impact it has on our economy and how it helps us here in the U.S. is criminal.  You have a push at this time of the year for part time work.  I believe the true unemployment percentage is some where the 12 to 13%.  The Fed has to make it look good after all, the present administration needs a push to get re-elected.  I just don't like these idiots making false reports and insulting our intelligence.  How it impacts the market place is definitely misleading. I hope we have a good Holiday season and the job numbers increase so that people have a real chance and being employed and staying employed after the season is over. I see people getting to the point of not even seeking jobs and giving up and that makes more sense, as to the misguided hopes of finding one.

Oct 13, 2012 9:44PM
Hope you are paying attention to the bank situation, Bill. Chase and Wells failed to get lift and in the coming weeks will take hits for the cart shows they just put on. Wells is being sued for bad FHA stuff and Chase has Jamie-- the toxic CEO. Europe is failing now. Both banks and several others are in it but won't win it. In fact, they will go bust. Wouldn't touch a bank stock. If you look back on values when we crashed in 2008 and where they are today, your first guess of-- lots of air in that bubble, would be true.
Oct 13, 2012 1:21AM

" But there is probably no one who doesn't think that the economic data are massaged".


I'm thinking 50% of the  47% don't think.  Let alone think that it is massaged.  Or know how to calculate an unemployment rate.  Or know how to do anything except collect checks.

Oct 13, 2012 12:27PM
Funny thing everyone is talking about the Dems. & Reps. and the Numbers, if they worked together for some reason it would be a better economy. I don't think it has much to do with either side, it doesn't matter what side I favor or you favor because I'm sure not cooking the books or messing with the numbers and I bet you're not either as well, this is above and beyond us, but I am a reality to what is going on in our economy and until you are in the reality looking for a job, you will not see or know the situation till you deal with it at hand, TRUST ME!
Oct 13, 2012 1:19PM

Come on!  The "markets" are a travesty.  Who really gives a hoot!  This will continue and it will make not one iota of a difference who is elected.  Churn and burn those that have pensions and K's.  If you believe other than you are drinking more than koolaid!  Just relaxl and enjoy the is total fun!

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Image: Bill Fleckenstein, MSN money

This column is a synopsis of Bill Fleckenstein's daily column on his website,, which he's been writing on the Internet since 1996. Click here to find Fleckenstein's most recent articles.



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