NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Traders closed the book Friday on a distressing week that saw stocks tumble on increasingly worrisome economic data. And with the phrase "double-dip" being bandied about of late, the current holiday-shortened week will offer more pessimistic investors only a few isolated opportunities to change their view. The U.S. stock market was closed Monday in observance of the Independence Day holiday. After Monday, the economic reports on tap appear scant and bare at first glance. "It is going to be a quiet week," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank, who said he'll instead be looking ahead to the start of earnings season. "Mostly, all of next week is going to be filled with quiet trading sessions as investors digest the economic data and prepare for second-quarter earnings data." But observers also say a few nuggets this week may have a deeper impact and could lead to more volatility given the low trading volumes. Stocks ended the Friday session on a downbeat note, with the Dow losing 46 points to finish at 9,686, after a dispiriting jobs report from the Labor Department showed the nation's
employers shed 125,000 jobs in June. Though the bulk of the loss came because the government slashed 225,000 temporary Census positions, the private sector still added an underwhelming 83,000 jobs. The nation's unemployment rate fell to a one-year low, albeit because a huge chunk of people dropped out of the work force. While U.S. markets were closed Monday, bourses mostly trended lower on apparent concerns about the strength of the global recovery. > > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll On the one hand, Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management, will be looking to this week to see whether the market manages to rally off the bad news or trades sideways to lower given the prevailing negative sentiment. With the report certifying the weakness in the labor market yet doing little to answer larger questions about the state of the economy in the second half of the year, observers say any additional jobs metrics will take on added importance as investors try to get a more definitive read on the nation's hiring situation. That places Thursday's initial jobless claims figures front and center, according to experts. New claims, which are scheduled for release from the Labor Department, have flitted around 450,000 to 470,000 for much of the year. That stagnation calls the very idea of sustained jobs growth into question, which in turn raises doubts about the strength of the economic recovery.
"The biggest thing now will continue to be the initial jobless claims numbers, since the jobs report didn't really settle anything. It wasn't bad enough to call a double-dip and it wasn't good enough to predict a sustained recovery," Paulsen said, who doesn't foresee a double-dip in the second half of the year. "The claims numbers are really going to be a driving force here, particularly if they ever get out of the mid-400,000s, one way or the other. They're probably going to be the biggest report over the next few weeks, at least until we get to the meat of earnings season." "In a vacuum of news next week, initial weekly jobless claims data will get a little bit more of a voice," said Jeff Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial. "Clearly, every data point on the labor front is important to the markets. So, getting that data in next week will be something that will be market moving." Also due Thursday, several observers say they'll be closely eyeing June chain-store sales figures, which will offer a read on U.S. consumers' buying habits. Retail spending is that much more in focus after the
Conference Board said consumer confidence slid 10% in June, roiling markets last week. Market watchers also called attention to next week's service sector report from the Institute for Supply Management. Last week, the ISM reported a dip in the pace of June manufacturing growth. On Tuesday, the ISM will unveil a read on the much broader service sector at 10 a.m. EDT. If consensus forecasts hold true, according to Briefing.com, activity will be relatively unchanged, with the index registering 55.5 after reading 55.4 in May. Data looking at consumer credit, wholesale inventories and weekly crude oil inventory levels round out the relatively tiny set of economic releases. Only a smattering of firms will report earnings this week, though market participants say they'll keep an eye out for any last minute preannouncements. In truth, markets will be preparing for the unofficial kickoff to earnings season the following week when Dow component Alcoa ( AA) reports its second-quarter earnings on July 12. Tech bellwether Intel ( INTC) will follow up by reporting on Tuesday, July 13. As for the coming week, however, discount retailer Family Dollar Stores ( FDO) is scheduled to report third-quarter earnings before Wednesday's opening bell. Wall Street is expecting the company to show a profit of 76 cents a share, improving on the 62 cents a share from a year earlier. -- Written by Sung Moss in New York