How the Last Word of the Election Goes to the Market

Job numbers and the market’s reaction will set the tone for November 6.

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With little more than two weeks, the last debate is make or break for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

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From the other side, Obama has been talking about the steady growth of private-sector job creation. That figure has climbed by an average of 150,000 jobs for 24 straight months—a good performance for any period of job growth, and arguably strong today given historic and enduring lows in consumer confidence following the crisis of 2008. The job market exodus, Obama backers argue, reflects natural causes like the rising rate of retirement of aging baby boomers. 

When the data is released November 2, the unemployment rate will be the "snapshot" most Americans carry into the voting booth. Polls taken after last month's drop below 8 percent showed Obama getting a lift. "Wall Street will look at all of the components, especially job creation—not just the unemployment rate," says Veru. "Unfortunately, Main Street looks only at the rate."

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The market, too, tends to oversimplify the notoriously volatile data, he says. "It's always a big day for Wall Street when the employment data comes out. But you can't really make investment decisions based on that single monthly figure," he says. Voters are likely to do just that. Pew Research reported recently that 80 percent of voters rate jobs and the economy as "very important," with only energy concerns (77 percent) even close.

It's the last big headline. A final word on the economy. A test for the stock market.

The stage is set.