Good morning friends and Fortune readers.
Happy Friday! Wall Street is having a quiet morning after the market mounted another strong rally Thursday, and ahead of the release of the December employment report this morning. Elsewhere, European shares are little changed so far today, and Asian indexes ended slightly higher.
Here’s what else you need to know about today.
1. The year-end jobs report.
The final jobs report for 2014 came out this morning, and it was even better than analysts expected. The unemployment rate fell to 5.6% in December from a previous 5.8% as the economy added 252,000 jobs. Last year was the best year for job growth since 1999: The U.S. economy added almost 3 million new jobs and reduced its unemployment rate by 1.1 percentage points.
That’s all certainly cause for celebration, though workers are still struggling to post wage gains. Average hourly earnings dropped by 5 cents in December and are up only 1.7% year-over-year, only slightly ahead of the 1.3% inflation rate.
2. Keystone XL vote.
The Republican-controlled house is bringing the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would run from the oil sands of Canada down to the U.S. Gulf Coast, to a vote today. The bill is expected to pass the House and will then move on to a vote in the Senate next week, where lawmakers are also expected to approve it. President Obama, however, has promised a veto if it reaches his desk. Republicans say the pipeline will provide jobs and boost the economy, while Democrats say it will destroy pristine landscapes and result in carbon pollution.
3. Euro drops below its debut price.
Now may be the time to travel to Europe with your U.S. dollars. The Euro dropped below $1.1789, the price at which it started out when the currency was introduced in 1999. That means American dollars will stretch a lot further in the Eurozone. ING Groep NV, which holds the title as the world’s most accurate currency forecaster in 2014, anticipates that the euro will drop to a one-for-one exchange rate with the U.S. dollar this year.
4. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank is considering a $591 billion boost.
Policymakers at the EU’s central bank are mulling plans for $591 billion (500 billion euro) in possible government bond purchases, reported Bloomberg. The purchase would act much like the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program, but in one major full-blown buying spree. Many believe this is necessary to break Europe out of its ongoing economic doldrums.
5. Japan is acting on a $26 billion stimulus plan.
The government approved a $26 billion (3.1 trillion-yen) addition to its budget for the current fiscal year. The money will be spent on subsidies, shopping vouchers and rebuilding after the nation’s multiple natural disasters. The stimulus comes on top of the nations budget of nearly $807 billion (95.9 trillion-yen) and is intended to help pull the stalling economy out of recession. Tokyo will fund the new spending using leftover yen from previous budgets and tax revenue.