Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's widely anticipated speech in Jackson Hole, WY this morning yielded no susbtantive new information for investors. Last year at this time, Bernanke used the Jackson Hole speech to lay the groundwork for a $600 billion money-printing operation (dubbed QE2), sparking a rally in equity and commodity markets. This time, however, significant opposition within the Federal Reserve and questions over the effectiveness of QE2 have prevented another round of money printing, at least for the time being. Bernanke sought to reassure markets that U.S. growth will strengthen over the long term, and announced that the Fed's next meeting in September will be extended to two days, presumably to allow more time to discuss additional stimulus measures.
For now, the markets can focus on upcoming economic data rather than speculating about the Fed's next move. To that end, next Friday brings the August employment report. The Bloomberg consensus expects a positive 75,000 change in nonfarm payrolls, with the unemployment rate remaining at 9.1%. Given the slow growth of the U.S. economy and recent uptick in weekly unemployment claims, the risk is to the downside for the employment report.
The good news is that the equity markets broke a string of four straight weekly losses to gain about 5% this week, while gold broke a string of seven weekly gains.