US March Nonfarm Payrolls Preview: Analyzing Gold price's reaction to NFP surprises


  • Nonfarm Payrolls in the US are forecast to increase by 240,000 in March.
  • Gold is likely to react slightly stronger to a disappointing jobs report than an upbeat one.
  • Gold price's inverse-correlation with NFP surprise weakens by the fourth hour after the release.

Historically, how impactful has the US jobs report been on gold’s valuation? In this article, we present results from a study in which we analyzed the XAUUSD pair's reaction to the previous 32 NFP prints*.

We present our findings as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) gets ready to release the March jobs report on Friday, April 7. Expectations are for a 240,000 rise in Nonfarm Payrolls following the better-than-expected 311,000 increase recorded in February.

*We omitted the NFP data for March 2021, which was published on the first Friday of April, due to lack of volatility amid Easter Friday.

Methodology

We plotted gold price’s reaction to the NFP print at 15 minutes, one hour and four hours intervals after the release. Then, we compared the gold price reaction to the deviation between the actual NFP release result and the expected result. 

We used the FXStreet Economic Calendar for data on deviation as it assigns a deviation point to each macroeconomic data release to show how big the divergence was between the actual print and the market consensus. For instance, the August (2021) NFP data missed the market expectation of 750,000 by a wide margin and the deviation was -1.49. On the other hand, February’s (2021) NFP print of 536,000 against the market expectation of 182,000 was a positive surprise with the deviation posting 1.76 for that particular release. A better-than-expected NFP print is seen as a USD-positive development and vice versa.

Finally, we calculated the correlation coefficient (r) to figure out at which time frame gold had the strongest correlation with an NFP surprise. When r approaches -1, it suggests there is a significant negative correlation, while a significant positive correlation is identified when r moves toward 1. Since gold is defined as XAU/USD, an upbeat NFP reading should cause it to edge lower and point to a negative correlation.

Results

There were 12 negative and 20 positive NFP surprises in the previous 32 releases, excluding data for March 2021. On average, the deviation was -0.86 on disappointing prints and 1.35 on strong figures. 15 minutes after the release, gold moved up by $3.97 on average if the NFP reading fell short of market consensus. On the flip side, gold declined by $3.09 on average on positive surprises. This finding suggests that investors’ immediate reaction is likely to be slightly more significant to a disappointing print.

The correlation coefficients we calculated for the different time frames mentioned above are not close enough to -1 to be considered significant. The strongest negative correlations are seen 15 minutes and one-hour after the releases with the r standing at -0.56 and -0.55, respectively. Four hours after the release, r edges higher to -0.43. 

Several factors could be coming into play to weaken gold’s inverse correlation with NFP surprises. A few hours after the NFP release on Friday, investors could look to book their profits toward the London fix, causing gold to reverse its direction after the initial reaction.

More importantly, underlying details of the jobs report, such as wage inflation, as measured by the Average Hourly Earnings, and the Labor Force Participation rate, could be having an impact on market reaction. The US Federal Reserve (Fed) clings to its data-dependent approach and the headline NFP print, combined with these other data, could drive the market pricing of the Fed's next policy action.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that the March jobs report will be published on Good Friday and low trading volumes could cause the market reaction to remain muted. 

 

NonFarm Payrolls F.A.Q.

What are Nonfarm Payrolls?

Nonfarm Payrolls (NFP) are part of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobs report. The Nonfarm Payrolls component specifically measures the change in the number of people employed in the US during the previous month, excluding the farming industry.

How does Nonfarm Payrolls influence the Federal Reserve monetary policy decisions?

The Nonfarm Payrolls figure can influence the decisions of the Federal Reserve by providing a measure of how successfully the Fed is meeting its mandate of fostering full employment and 2% inflation.
A relatively high NFP figure means more people are in employment, earning more money and therefore probably spending more. A relatively low Nonfarm Payrolls' result, on the either hand, could mean people are struggling to find work.
The Fed will typically raise interest rates to combat high inflation triggered by low unemployment, and lower them to stimulate a stagnant labor market.

How does Nonfarm Payrolls affect the US Dollar?

Nonfarm Payrolls generally have a positive correlation with the US Dollar. This means when payrolls' figures come out higher-than-expected the USD tends to rally and vice versa when they are lower.
NFPs influence the US Dollar by virtue of their impact on inflation, monetary policy expectations and interest rates. A higher NFP usually means the Federal Reserve will be more tight in its monetary policy, supporting the USD.

How does Nonfarm Payrolls affect Gold?

Nonfarm Payrolls are generally negatively-correlated with the price of Gold. This means a higher-than-expected payrolls' figure will have a depressing effect on the Gold price and vice versa.
Higher NFP generally has a positive effect on the value of the USD, and like most major commodities Gold is priced in US Dollars. If the USD gains in value, therefore, it requires less Dollars to buy an ounce of Gold.
Also, higher interest rates (typically helped higher NFPs) also lessen the attractiveness of Gold as an investment compared to staying in cash, where the money will at least earn interest.

Sometimes NonFarm Payrolls trigger an opposite reaction than what the market expects. Why is that?

Nonfarm Payrolls is only one component within a bigger jobs report and it can be overshadowed by the other components.
At times, when NFP come out higher-than-forecast, but the Average Weekly Earnings is lower than expected, the market has ignored the potentially inflationary effect of the headline result and interpreted the fall in earnings as deflationary.
The Participation Rate and the Average Weekly Hours components can also influence the market reaction, but only in seldom events like the "Great Resignation" or the Global Financial Crisis.

 

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