NEW YORK ( TheStreet -- Traders have been waiting all week to see the employment figures that will come out at 8:30 a.m. ET. The overall trends have been going up for the payroll figures and that isn't expected to change.
Consensus is calling for 185,000 jobs added. February grew by 192,000 and January was revised up. The only cloud in last month's numbers was wages. They were mostly flat. Wall Street would be very encouraged if this number started to lift. The unemployment rate cracked the 9% mark and traders want to see this number stay at 8.9% or better. However, some of this is actually attributed to the chronically unemployed not being counted anymore.
The major U.S. equity indices just wrapped up their best first quarter in more than a decade and a big part of that bullishness is based on the growing belief that the economic recovery is on track. This number probably has greater potential to disappoint than it does to spur another meaningful gain because a strong showing may already be priced in.
In other economic news, construction spending data is due at 10 a.m. ET and no one is expecting this number to be surprisingly positive. Housing starts fell quite a bit in February, so that component is likely to be down. Is there really a lot of commercial construction happening? Right.Also at 10 a.m. ET, the ISM manufacturing survey is released. February delivered strong readings with both employment and production numbers, reaching levels not seen since May 2004. This is expected to be positive even if it isn't up in a huge way. Auto sales come out at 3 p.m. ET and the previous number was 4.6 million. According to J.D. Powers, March sales are likely to be down because of lower sales by Japanese car makers to rental companies. Manufacturers are putting retail customers ahead of fleet customers as they continue to struggle with disruptions stemming from Japan's earthquake and tsunami. Also retail demand may be heightened if customers are worried about getting a Japanese car. Edmunds.com has reported that interest in Toyotas has increased since the disaster. Another factor could be that gas is approaching the magical price of $4 per gallon at the pump and consumers are rushing out to get a Prius before it's too late.