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Morning Market Roundup: Jobs Numbers, Greece Reprieve, U.S. Trade Deficit


Here’s what’s important in the financial world this morning:

Jobs Numbers: U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs in February to complete “three of the best months of hiring since the recession began,” according to the Associated Press. The unemployment rate was unchanged, largely because more people streamed into the work force.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that the unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent last month, the lowest in three years.

“And hiring in January and December was better than first thought,” the AP is reporting. “The government revised those figures to show 61,000 an additional jobs.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' data, the economy has now generated an average of 245,000 jobs in the past three months.

“That bodes well for President Barack Obama's re-election chances, although he's still likely to face the highest unemployment rate of any post-war president,” the AP reports.

However, as reported yesterday on The Blaze, today's numbers don’t exactly match Gallup’s numbers,

“Regardless of what the government reports, Gallup’s unemployment and underemployment measures show a substantial deterioration since mid-January,” Gallup reported yesterday.

Photo Source: Gallup

“In this context, the increase in unemployment as measured by Gallup may, at least partly, reflect growth in the workforce, as more Americans who had given up looking for work become slightly more optimistic and start looking for work again. So while there may be positive signs, the reality Gallup finds is that more Americans are looking for work now than were doing so just six weeks ago [emphasis added],” the report adds. Not exactly as rosy as the AP’s report.

Ed Morrissey of Hot Air offers his own analysis:

…Gallup is usually a good indicator of what is to come in either the same month or the month following. Until then, this is a good jobs report, although not significant enough to make a big dent in the massive overhang of joblessness. At this rate, it would take close to three years to get back to the pre-recession level of employment in the US.

Greece: The small Mediterranean country has cleared a major hurdle in its race to avoid bankruptcy by persuading the vast majority of its private creditors to sign up to the biggest national debt writedown in history, paving the way for a second massive bailout.

Following weeks of intense discussions, the Greek government said Friday that 83.5 percent of private investors holding its government bonds were participating in a bond swap. Of the investors holding the euro177 billion ($234 billion) in bonds governed by Greek law, 85.8 percent joined.

"We have achieved an exceptional success ... and I believe everyone will soon realize that this is the only way to keep the country on its feet and give it a second historic chance that it needs," Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told Parliament.

He said he would recommend the activation of legislation known as "collective action clauses" to force bondholders who refused to sign up into the swap. The issue was to be discussed at a Cabinet meeting Friday afternoon.

"A window of opportunity is opening" with the success of the deal to reduce the country's €368 billion debt by€105 billion, or about 50 percentage points of gross domestic product, he said.

Spain: Spanish labor unions mounted their first significant challenge to the country's new government Friday when they called for a general strike for March 29 to protest against new labor reforms and austerity measures.

The labor reforms, passed last month, slash the cost of firing workers and ease conditions under which they can be dismissed. Salaries can be lowered unilaterally, and companies can lay off employees at the cheapest level of severance pay by reporting three straight months of declining revenue.

Workers Commissions and the General Workers Union called the stoppage following separate executive committee meetings.

Ignacio Fernandez Toxo of Workers Commission said the reforms are steered too much in businesses' favor. He likened the changes to labor laws that existed when Gen. Francisco Franco ruled, from 1939-1975.

"It is the most regressive reform in the history of democracy in Spain," he told a news conference.

U.S.: The U.S. trade deficit surged to the widest imbalance in more than three years in January as imports hit an all-time high, reflecting big demand for foreign-made cars, computers and food products.

U.S. exports to Europe fell, raising concerns that the debt crisis in that region could dampen U.S. economic growth.

The January trade deficit widened to $52.6 billion, the biggest gap since October 2008, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Imports rose 2.1 percent to a record $233.4 billion. Exports were up a smaller 1.4 percent to $180.8 billion. Exports to Europe fell 7.5 percent.

Economists are looking for the deficit this year to widen from last year's $560 billion imbalance, reflecting in part the economic woes in Europe, which represents about 20 percent of America's export market. A wider deficit can depress economic growth because it usually means fewer export-related jobs.

A National Association for Business Economics forecasting panel has projected that the deficit for 2012 will narrow by 4.1 percent to $535.4 billion and will edge down further to $525 billion in 2013 as growth in exports keeps pace with import increases.

The Associated Press contribute to this report.

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