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With Thanksgiving over, investors will get back to focusing on economic data in the coming week, including an employment report that could help to shape expectations for a fifth interest rate hike in December.

After a strong jobs number last month, traders and analysts have high hopes for the labor market and say the upcoming report could strengthen the case for a quarter-point rate increase at the

Federal Reserve's

next meeting.

Economists are looking for nonfarm payrolls to climb by 200,000 in November after 337,000 jobs were added in the prior month. The unemployment rate is expected to slip one-tenth of a percent, to 5.4%.

"If we get confirmation that the job market is growing in a bigger way, that will set the stage for the next leg of this rally," said Peter Cardillo, chief market strategist at S.W. Bach.




S&P 500

have climbed in four of the last five weeks, as investors celebrated a decline in crude oil, some better economic news and end to the uncertainty surrounding the election. Last week, the


rose 0.6% to 10,522, the


gained 1% to 1183, and the


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was up 1.5% to 2102.

As usual, the jobs report won't be released until Friday, so investors will have several days to speculate about the result. In the meantime, a string of other reports could provide some direction.

On Tuesday, a preliminary reading on third-quarter gross domestic product is due to be released. An advance reading in late October showed that the economy grew 3.7% in the three months ended September, and economists aren't expecting any revision.

Consumer confidence and the Chicago purchasing managers' index are also on tap for Tuesday, followed by the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index on Wednesday. Confidence in November probably rose from the previous month, and the ISM is slated to climb to 57 from 56.8 in October.

The Fed's beige book report, personal income and spending, and a report on construction spending are also due Wednesday; Thursday will bring factory orders and weekly unemployment claims. The ISM services index is due out Friday, along with the jobs data.

Earlier in the week, investors will be anxious to hear what retailers have to say about sales on Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving is typically one of the busiest shopping days of the year and serves as a gauge for consumer sentiment heading into the holiday shopping season.

Still, activity could be harder to gauge this year, as


(WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report

will not be releasing results. On Black Friday last year, the retail giant rang up its best sales day ever, with sales of $1.52 billion.

Tom McManus, an analyst at Banc of America, said he expects the market to trend higher over the coming weeks and months, noting that


(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report

is due to pay out a $32 billion special dividend on Friday and that


purchase of

AT&T Wireless


should provide a large cash injection. Shareholders of AT&T Wireless will receive $15 cash per common share, or about $41 billion. Cingular is a venture of




SBC Communications



"Liquidity trends are expected to continue to provide a prop for U.S. stocks in the near term," he said. "Looking ahead, payment of regular quarterly dividends is approaching a seasonally heavy period though Dec. 10."

McManus also noted that portfolio managers usually draw down their cash balances during the month of December in anticipation of a bounce at the start of a new year. While near-term demand should be robust, however, "we remain concerned about broad market valuations and the prospect for downward earnings revisions."

Analysts also remain concerned about the direction of the dollar. Last week the greenback fell against the euro for a seventh straight week, sparking concern that interest rates might have to increase more than expected to attract foreign investment.

Meanwhile, investors are keeping a close eye on the price of oil, which has climbed almost 7% since Nov. 16. Traders worry that if the weather is colder than expected this winter, demand for heating oil could shoot up, sending prices soaring. Crude oil hit a high of $55.54 on Oct. 25.