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Market Preview: In-Line Jobs Number Won't Cut It

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The market will swap Greek debt for nonfarm payroll data as a trading touchstone as Friday morning progresses, and expectations are for a healthy February jobs number.

It's an aberration in the jobs number, though, and not the expectation just being met, that will be required to influence the markets.

Last month, the nonfarm payroll number came in at 243,000, the third-consecutive up month and a significant beat of consensus, leading to an up day for the markets. The February nonfarm payroll consensus is for 204,000, according to Bloomberg -- other consensus figures come in around the 210,000 mark -- but just meeting that number isn't likely to stoke outsized investor confidence.

"For us to see something that really moves the market, the number needs to be significantly outside of expectations, otherwise it's just noise more than anything else," said Phillip Silverman of money manager Kingsview Capital. "If we do see a soft number and it suggests that things are potentially slowing, we could see the market start to come down, because it has gone up so much."

In fact, the jobs number has to be viewed within the context of the huge market rally of early 2012. The two-month equities run, and nine straight weeks of moving up and to the right on the chart, has resulted in the best equities spike since 1991.

The extent of the rally was behind Tuesday's sudden selloff, and with the past two days erasing that stumble, the jobs number is one more data point to which the markets will look for conviction, either bearish or bullish. Expectation isn't conviction, but merely a sign that the U.S. economy recovery isn't moving off track.

Gary Thayer, chief macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors, said that he is most interested in whether a jobs number that beats consensus fails to move the market, which would suggest to him that this rally has reached its exhaustion point.

"We haven't seen any really good news lately that the market didn't like, but we also have a lot of good news built into the market as a result and high expectations. If we get 250,000 jobs and it doesn't move the market, we could see some more consolidation," Thayer said. He cautioned that it is too early to say a couple of days rebound from Tuesday's selloff is enough to stop investors from exiting profitable positions.
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