Jobs and manufacturing: It's a big day for the US economy

Posted November 1, 2019 7:54 a.m. EDT

— Happy Friday. A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business' Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.

The US jobs report for October arrives Friday — but this time, analysis of payrolls growth will be a bit trickier.

The strike at General Motors, which started mid-September and lasted about six weeks, is expected to weigh on the monthly data released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists surveyed by Reuters expect that just 89,000 jobs were added to the US economy in October, down from 136,000 the month prior.

The scene: The GM strike took about 46,000 autoworkers off the job. But it also hit the company's suppliers, which could have affected as many as 12,000 additional workers, according to an analysis by Morgan Stanley.

This will muddle the picture for economists, who are trying to assess the extent of a recent pullback in hiring. The strike makes it "more difficult to determine if the slowdown is attributable to the strike or fundamental weakening in the labor market," Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Michelle Meyer pointed out in a recent research note.

Also coming on Friday is the ISM Manufacturing Index, which is expected to improve slightly but indicate an ongoing contraction. The gauge of the US manufacturing sector will be closely watched after the Chicago manufacturing index on Thursday sank to a dismal 43.2 reading. That's its lowest level since a one-off drop at the end of 2015.

The big picture: The ongoing conversation among US economists is whether weakness in manufacturing will start to eat into the strength of American consumers. Friday will provide two important data points on that front.

"One of the more concerning developments for the consumer outlook has been the labor market slowdown," Bank of America's Meyer said.

The world's largest 5G network has gone live

China just switched on the world's largest 5G network, raising the stakes in the race to roll out the next-generation technology that will someday power smart cities and self-driving cars.

The country's three state-run telecom operators — China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom — launched 5G services on Friday, my CNN Business colleague Sherisse Pham reports.

What that means: 5G is now available in 50 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, per state news agency Xinhua. In Shanghai, nearly 12,000 5G base stations have been activated to support coverage in public spaces. Jefferies analysts predict that China will have 110 million 5G users by 2020. That's about 7% of the country's population.

The United States and South Korea launched 5G services in select areas earlier this year. But China's commercial network is the biggest, according to Bernstein Research. That gives the country more influence over how the technology evolves globally.

The political scene: This muscle is important as the United States tries to rein in Huawei, the Shenzhen-based telecom equipment and smartphone giant. Washington has urged countries to ban Huawei equipment from their 5G networks, alleging that Beijing could use it for spying. Huawei denies its products pose a security risk.

Despite the US campaign, Huawei's business is solid, and China's 5G launch will give the company a boost. Huawei works with all three of China's state-run telecom operators.

Introducing Christine Lagarde, ECB president

Change is here: Friday is Christine Lagarde's first day as president of the European Central Bank.

The former head of the International Monetary Fund has no shortage of work to do. The decision by her predecessor, Mario Draghi, to relaunch a bond-buying program that could stimulate Europe's sluggish economy has been contentious, sparking rare public pushback from members of the ECB's Governing Council.

Lagarde now faces the unenviable task of smoothing over these divisions — though Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank thinks Draghi's final act may have been a gift in disguise.

"Because the ECB did so much in September, weaker economic data will not force Lagarde to propose any further potentially controversial easing measures for the time being," he told clients earlier this week. "Instead, she can focus on healing the rifts."

Up next

Alibaba, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Newell Brands are set to report earnings before US markets open.

Also today:

The US jobs report for October arrives at 8:30 a.m. ET.The ISM Manufacturing Index for October follows at 10 a.m. ET.

Coming next week: We're more than halfway through earnings season. Can companies like Marriott and Uber keep beating Wall Street expectations?

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