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Investors will return from a long holiday weekend refreshed and ready to face a slew of economic news, including the jobs report for November.

Solid economic data last week, like a sizable revision to third-quarter gross domestic product and a big jump in durable goods orders, failed to impress investors, who were concentrating on a deterioration in the U.S. dollar. But Peter Cardillo, chief strategist at Global Partners Securities, thinks the mood will improve in the week ahead.

"Next week's news will be a driver for the market that could induce a year-end rally and take us to new highs," he said.

Monday's manufacturing report from the Institute for Supply Management and Friday's employment data will probably set the tone for the week. The unemployment rate is projected to hold steady at 6% and 150,000 new jobs are expected to be added to the payroll. Economists say the ISM index should come in at 57, unchanged from the prior month.

"Fundamentally the economy is performing well, and has been doing exactly what the stock market has been forecasting for the past eight months," Cardillo said.

Still, some analysts worry that any enthusiasm about the economy will morph into concern about an imminent interest rate hike. The central bank, which has vowed to keep rates on hold for a "considerable period," meets Dec. 9, and some say it could begin to lay the groundwork for a change in policy.

Dave Briggs, head trader at Federated Investors, is expecting the market to move sideways next week. "The economic news should be good, but I think people are anxious about jumping in because we haven't had a big correction," he said.

Briggs is looking for the

S&P 500

to hit 1080 by the end of the year, up 2% from current levels. "We'll bump a bit higher but not dramatically so," he said.

Richard Nash, chief market strategist at Victory Capital Management, isn't expecting a big move up in the market either because he believes it is being constrained by high oil prices, a weaker dollar, terrorism concerns, overvaluation and the mutual fund trading scandals.

"Further gains in the market would likely need to be fueled by earnings gains, not multiple expansion," he said. "Fortunately, analyst's earnings estimates have proven too conservative in every quarter to date in 2003."

While the jobs report and ISM index will steal the limelight next week, other data could also impact the market. On Monday, auto sales for November are due out along with numbers on construction spending for October. A revision to third-quarter productivity and the ISM services data are scheduled to be released on Wednesday, followed by initial jobless claims on Thursday. Factory orders and consumer credit round out the week on Friday.

Investors will also be anxious to hear from retailers, which often rack up heavy sales after the Thanksgiving holiday. While not as good an indicator as it once was, the Friday after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, is often considered a harbinger for the holiday shopping season.

"Americans have either begun procrastinating or waiting for last-minute sales, as the Saturday before Christmas has recently moved into the top position for holiday sales," said Nash.

Nash said cautious comments from retailers like


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have raised some concerns about the upcoming holiday, but "given the recent improvements in the labor markets, consumer confidence and weekly chain-store sales, combined with modest gains in disposable income and the beneficial impact of the tax cuts, we would expect the holiday season to be a merry one for most retailers."