A few key economic indicators are likely to take the spotlight in the coming week, as investors look for much-needed guidance on where the economy is heading. The major averages ended Friday's session with gains, but closed the week with losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 77.59 points, or 0.8%, for the week, while the Nasdaq fell 28.44 points, or 1.8%. The S&P 500 ended the week down 11.08 points, or 1.2%. Last week saw some volatile trading, with stocks rallying on Thursday amid news that Congress looked set to approve a $350 billion tax-cut measure. The House and Senate approved the plan -- which includes temporary relief from dividend and capital gains taxes -- on Friday, boosting the market from early lows that day. Still, the market was wishy-washy throughout the week, and some say that the coming weeks will be a good test of the market's fortitude. On Monday, investors will get a reading on consumer confidence, which is expected to have inched up in May. On Friday, the revised Michigan consumer sentiment index could give a conflicting signal, however, showing a slight decline from the previous month. Other indicators this week include personal spending and new-home sales. Also, on Thursday, markets will get preliminary gross domestic product figures. The GDP report is expected to show that growth picked up slightly in the first quarter. Though analysts are generally expecting the markets to continue gradually improving, a lack of major catalysts is expected to keep a damper on stocks in the near term. "I don't see an awful lot of change in this market. The tax package has been discounted, and everyone is back to grasping for answers," said Jim Melcher of Balestra. The shortened week is expected to keep trading volume low, with a slight pickup in activity as the week wears on, analysts said. Markets are closed Monday for Memorial Day.
Among earnings reports, Qwest ( Q) will deliver its first-quarter statement Thursday. Discount wholesaler Costco ( COST) reports its earnings Wednesday, along with homebuilders Toll Brothers ( TOL) and Hovnanian ( HOV). Doughnut maker Krispy Kreme ( KKD) reports its earnings this week as well. Although most expect a humdrum week, others remain positive. "The investor is more confident. They are seeing opportunity in the future; that's what the markets are saying," said Barry Hyman, an independent strategist. "The market may get stuck in a trading range for a while, but it won't be in a bear market forever, and all the concern about the bubble coming back is not yet warranted."