) -- Traders will be inundated by a myriad of economic releases Thursday, headlined by weekly jobless claims, as the calendar turns to October and the fourth quarter begins.

The Labor Department will release its initial jobless claims report at 8:30 a.m. EDT, which should should show claims increased last week to 535,000 from 530,000 the previous week, according to a


poll of economists. Last week, claims unexpectedly dropped by 21,000, although continuing claims remained above the 6 million mark.

Meanwhile, the start of a new month brings the latest monthly auto sales data, with carmakers reporting results throughout the session. said new vehicle sales in September (including fleet sales) are expected to be around 742,000 units, nearly a 23% decrease from a year ago and a whopping 41.1% from the previous month, which benefitted from the government's Cash for Clunkers program.

Adjusted for fewer selling days, estimates that


(F) - Get Report

saw sales fall 13.3% from a year ago, down 38.6% from August.

General Motors

is expected to see auto sales fall 48.2% from a year ago and 37.8% from August.


is expected to see September sales plummet 50.8% from a year ago and 40.7% compared to August's data.

"This September is the opposite of last September," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for, in a release. "The first half of September 2008 -- before the

Lehman Brothers

collapse -- was stronger; sales dried up in the second half. This September sales were weak early in the month due to the Cash for Clunkers hangover and now are reaching a more normal -- at least for these times -- equilibrium. So, the trajectory of sales is more positive than a year ago."

Also on the economic calendar, the Census Bureau will post personal income and spending data for August at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Economists polled by


expect income to rise 0.1% after remaining flat in July, while consumption should rise 1.1% after only a 0.2% uptick in July.

Later, the Institute for Supply Management will release the September read on its manufacturing index at 10 a.m. EDT. Economists expect the index to rise to 50.2 from 48.9 in August. Any reading over 50 is considered to show expansion in the manufacturing sector. At the same time, the Census Bureau will post construction spending data for August, which should slip 0.1%.

Also at 10 a.m. EDT, the National Association of Realtors will offer pending-home sales data for August, which should increase 1% after a 3.2% rise in July. In other housing-related news,

Freddie Mac

will release weekly mortgage rates.

Traders will also be watching remarks from

Federal Reserve

Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is set to testify about proposed financial regulatory rules before the House Financial Services Committee.

Corporate quarterly reports will be light Thursday with

Constellation Brands

(STZ) - Get Report

set to report quarterly results before the opening bell.


(ACN) - Get Report




are scheduled to post earnings after the end of the trading day.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in New York