Focus Shifting to Friday's Jobs Report

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The wait is on.

After more than a week in which previously parochial investors not only learned the words

Hang Seng

but learned to fear them, attention again has shifted to the domestic economy. The result seems less than exciting, as stock indices stay tethered like balloons to their current levels ahead of Friday's important October

employment report

, but many on Wall Street are just thrilled with the current stasis.

After all, with yesterday's close of 7689.13 the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

had rebounded 7.4% from the Oct. 27 close of 7161.15 and 10.9% from the Oct. 28 intraday low of 6936.45. Yesterday the blue-chip index stood just 26.28 below its Oct. 24 close of 7715.41, the session before its 554.26-point plummet on Bloody Blue-Gray Monday (BBGM, or whatever they're calling it).

Around 12:15 p.m. EST, the Dow shook off its cobwebs and charged back through that Oct. 24 number. It was up 31 to 7720, with the

S&P 500

up nearly 4 to 944.50, the

Nasdaq Composite Index

up 10 to near 1642 and the small-cap

Russell 2000

up 1.55 to 443.86.

President Clinton's

noontime statement rallying support for fast-track trade negotiating authority, which many see as an important contributor to profit growth for multinationals, may have helped to spark the vitality.

Tony Dwyer, chief market strategist at

Ladenburg Thalmann

, said on BBGM that he expected the crash-like event to present a buying opportunity once the dust settled. Now he likes the way that dust is falling. "After the significant move we've had off the lows, I think it's rather impressive that the market's holding up well," he said. "It's kind of a testament to our opinion that the selloff was overdone."

Dwyer has his attention fixed on the jobs report, but he doesn't expect it to pose much of a threat to the ongoing equity recovery. The market will be unruffled by an in-line number or even a slightly stronger-than-expected one, he said. The current


consensus estimate calls for an unemployment rate of 4.8% and 202,000 new jobs, compared with 4.9% and 215,000 in September.

"Most important to watch is average hourly earnings, even more important than the jobs figure," Dwyer said. "That's a better gauge of labor inflation. We all know we're in a tight labor market, but that will say more about the impact on earnings." The consensus estimate for hourly earnings calls for an increase of 0.2% versus September's 0.3%.

Even if the Friday report should contain some kind of calamitous, oh-my-gosh-the-


-gonna-raise-rates kind of number, Dwyer refuses to worry. "We'd use any weakness or consolidation to add to good stocks," he said. "Companies with improving fundamentals, good earnings positions and upward earnings revisions, coupled with solid technical patterns, are what we go for."

Naming names, Dwyer said those criteria currently are pointing him toward


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