The first full trading week of 2009 could mostly be a quiet one as traders return from the holiday season still licking their wounds from the previous year, but that may all change following the December nonfarm payrolls data.
The report, due Friday, is expected to show that the U.S. economy saw 475,000 jobs disappear last month, which would mark the 12th straight month of declines. When combined with the 533,000 jobs that were lost in November, the worst single-month decrease in 34 years, the expected December losses would mean the U.S. economy shed more than a million jobs over the course of only two months.
"That is a staggering number," said Chip Hanlon, president of Delta Global Advisors. "It's hard to guess if we'll get a surprise either way, but it still seems that this is still deepening. There's a better chance that the number surprises to the downside."
Even if the number is greater than a loss of 475,000 jobs, Hanlon argues the market could still rally. Following the November nonfarm payrolls report in early December, the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
rebounded from a 257-point loss early in the day to end higher by 259 points, a swing of more than 500 points.
"If it's a weaker-than-expected number, it has to be a
weaker to be a driver that takes the market lower," Hanlon added. "It seems the worst-case outcome has been priced in."
The lone economic release that focuses on activity in December, aside from the nonfarm payrolls report, will be the Institute for Supply Management's services index, due on Tuesday. This past week, the ISM manufacturing index came in at 32.4% in December, the fifth consecutive monthly decline.
Several other economic reports will be on tap, although many involve activity in November and may not be an appropriate barometer of current economic activity. Construction spending will hit the wires Monday, followed by factory-order data for the same month on Tuesday. Thursday will bring a report on consumer credit from November, and Friday will see the release of wholesale inventories data from two months ago.
Looking at the earnings calendar, a handful of companies were scheduled to post quarterly results over the next five trading sessions.
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However, the real fireworks of the fourth-quarter earnings season won't happen until the following week, when
report on Jan. 12 marks the unofficial start of the torrent of releases. In the meantime, traders will spend the coming week sorting through the last remnants of 2008.
"It's going to be a quiet week," Hanlon said. "Everyone is going to be getting back in, settling down, and deciding where they want to be for 2009. We could get a week where we float higher as everyone is optimistic about the new year. Then again, we could get the opposite with weakness as people come and go. Most people think a base is being built, but I'm not convinced."