This week's key economic reports for investors, the nonfarm payrolls report and the unemployment rate, will come on Friday. There are plenty of other reports and global activities to keep investors busy throughout the week, however.
Today, factory orders will be released at 10 a.m. This report comes from the Census Bureau and contains the durable goods orders, which were reported last week. It also consists of some new information on nondurable items, factory inventories and shipments.
"It's really a bellwether for the durable goods report that will come out later in the month. Factory orders, the new orders part of that report, is really pretty volatile, so it's better (to) look at long-term trends rather than (a) one-month snapshot. If orders are trending higher than expected, that will be (a) good sign for the market," says Jeff Nauta, CFA, CFP, principal at Henrickson Nauta Wealth Advisors in Belmont, Mich.
Also on Monday, the Institute for Supply Management's nonmanufacturing index will be released. It's less weighty than the ISM's other report, the manufacturing index, but it can provide clues about inflation and growth in the nonmanufacturing sectors of the economy.
Any number more than 50 indicates expansion. Last month, the index stood at 56.8 percent.
On Wednesday, the Automatic Data Processing Inc.'s employment report will be released; it typically foreshadows Friday's nonfarm payrolls report, but sometimes the two reports diverge. ADP is a payroll provider, and the report reflects what they see going on in their system.
"Most of the time, it is a good indicator of what Friday will bring," says Nauta.
Also on Wednesday, the weekly crude-inventory report from the U.S. Energy Department will come out. The report shows data for the previous week.
With oil prices moving up and fears about the situation with Iran, "more attention is being paid to oil in general. Last week the index surprised on the upside with more oil than expected, and the big driver is going to be political factors, not so much the supply side," Nauta says.
Finally, Friday brings the nonfarm payrolls and the headline unemployment rate. Last month's report showed that January was the fifth month of decreasing unemployment. The question will be: Can the trend be sustained, and is the recovery finally taking hold?
"Last month, we were at 8.3 percent, and consensus is that this will be 8.3 this month as well. Bernanke and the Fed are expecting 8.3 percent throughout the year. Any surprise on that will affect the markets one way or another; if we come in higher than 8.3 percent, we'll see a big dip, and if we see a surprise drop in unemployment, we'll see a big gain," Nauta says.
Keep an eye on Europe throughout the week as most of the market moves are dictated by the ongoing turbulence there.
Last week, a financial treaty was signed that would make the European Union a true fiscal union rather than a loose confederacy of separate nations.
"One of the bigger things to watch will be how that treaty is reacted to in each of the countries. Each country must now go out and have that treaty ratified or approved, and there will likely be some push-back," says Nauta.
"Spain is not expecting to hit its austerity goals. Obviously that is not a good sign, and it drove some of the market returns on Friday," he says.
Anything else to take note of?
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