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Coming Week: How Strong Is the Bull?

Stocks in this article: AIG FNM FRE

Corporations' bottom lines also have been lifted by cost cutting and layoffs, which hold back the struggling economy's growth. The Labor Department will release the jobs report on Friday, perhaps the most closely watched economic indicator at the moment. The market expects employers to have cut another 225,000 payrolls in August, sending the unemployment rate slightly higher to 9.5% from 9.4% in July.

"The big thing's obviously going to be the employment report on Friday," says Tim Freeman, head of U.S. equity derivative sales at Capstone Sales Advisors, adding that investors are scrutinizing data beyond the headline figure, like average hourly earnings and average weekly hours. "With every piece of information that comes out, we really need to discern what's going on with the consumer. Is the consumer getting into a better place, or is it more of the same?"

Other data to be released next week include indicators on manufacturing activity, with the purchasing managers index on Monday and the ISM report the following day. Tuesday will also hold the monthly report on auto sales, followed by minutes from the Fed meeting on Wednesday, the weekly initial claims report on Thursday and the broader employment report on Friday.

Freeman says that pricing for S&P options indicates a 2.25% move higher next week, indicating that the market will be "very range bound" in the short term. With Labor Day not yet past, there's likely to be a continuation of light volume next week as well, until more of Wall Street returns from the holiday.

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