- The U.S. economy added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate fell to 6.2%
- The ISM Manufacturing index registered 60.8 in February, while the ISM Services Index came in at 55.3
- West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures have risen 36% year-to-date
Top Three Market Headlines
Hiring Rebounds in February: The Labor Department reported last week that U.S. nonfarm payrolls increased by 379,000 in February, marking the second straight month of job growth. Most of the gains in February occurred in the leisure and hospitality industry across businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and amusements, as economic restrictions in parts of the country were relaxed amid lower COVID-19 case rates and increasing vaccinations. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate continued to tick down, falling to 6.2% in February; while this is well below the 14.8% peak registered in April of last year, it remains above the pre-pandemic rate of 3.5%.
U.S. Business Expansion Continues: The U.S. economy continued to expand in February, according to surveys of business executives released last week from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM). The ISM Manufacturing index registered 60.8 in February, up from 58.7 in the prior month and matching a three-year high. (A reading above 50 indicates expansion of activity while a sub-50 mark reflects contraction). The services sector also continued to grow in February, though at a slower pace, as the ISM Services Index came in at 55.3, which was 3.4 points lower than the prior month. Both indices have now exceeded 50 for nine consecutive months.
Oil Prices Push Higher on Extended Production Cuts: Oil prices jumped last week on news that OPEC+, the group of 24 oil-producing nations, will extend previously-negotiated production cuts until the end of April. The price of front-month West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures contracts rose more than 7% on the week to settle at $66.09 per barrel, the highest level since November 2018. The latest surge added to oil’s gains this year, as the WTI futures price has risen 36% year-to-date. The production cuts orchestrated by OPEC+ have withheld a total of seven million barrels a day from the global market, or approximately 7% of global demand.