Wall Street looks to jobs report, corporate earnings

chart-ws-index-sp500.top.pngClick the chart for more market data. By Ken Sweet, contributing writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Wall Street will have a busy five days to look forward to this week, with investors getting several closely watched economic reports while also digesting dozens of corporate earnings results.

The main event comes Friday, when the Labor Department releases its April jobs report. Wall Street economists are looking for around 200,000 new private sector, non-farm jobs, according to economists surveyed by Briefing.com. The unemployment rate is expected to tick higher to 8.9%.

Jobs remain the biggest sore spot in this recovery, both politically and economically. Other indicators -- including manufacturing and consumer confidence -- have shown progress since the recession ended 18 months ago.

"The labor market has been extremely disappointing," said Adolfo Laurenti, chief U.S. economist with Mesirow Financial. "We are well behind historical norms."

Unless the jobs figures come in at or better than expectations, expect May to be a difficult month for stocks, investors said.

Earnings season continues to roll along this week. More than 100 companies will report in the next five days, while 323 members of the S&P 500 have already posted financial results for their latest quarter.

Companies on tap to report include Dow components Pfizer (PFE, Fortune 500) and Kraft Foods (KFT, Fortune 500), credit card processor Visa (V, Fortune 500) and financial giant Prudential (PRU, Fortune 500).

Investors have generally been impressed with this earnings season. More than 70% of the S&P 500 members that have reported so far have beat expectations, according to Thomson Reuters, while 69% have also beat on sales and revenue.

"A lot of these companies right-sized their business during the downturn, and now they're starting to see profit margins expand not just because they're lean, but because sales and profit margins are up as well," said Eric Marshall, co-portfolio manager of the Hodges Small Cap Fund.

The so-far strong earnings season helped stocks end April at their highest level since May 2008, with the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq also having their best monthly performance since December.

The Nasdaq 100 will undergo a re-balancing this week, which may impact stock prices as large portfolio managers re-adjust their holdings to reflect the new weight of the index. (see correction below)

On the docket

Monday -- Wall Street will get the Institute for Supply Management's April manufacturing index, as well as construction spending figures from the Commerce Department. Both are due out at 10 a.m. ET.

Economists expect the April ISM index will fall to a reading of 58.5 from last month's 61.2, while construction spending figures are expected to fall 0.5%.

For earnings, investors will get results from natural gas provider Chesapeake Energy (CHK, Fortune 500), utility company ConEd (ED, Fortune 500) and health insurer Humana (HUM, Fortune 500), among others.

Investors will also get monthly auto sales figures from the major car makers starting around 11 a.m. ET.

"We haven't seen any evidence that U.S. consumers are pulling back because of energy costs, but one of those ways it could show up could be in car sales," said Paul Zemsky, head of asset allocation with ING Financial.

Tuesday -- Dow component Pfizer will report its results before the bell. Analysts expect the company to have earned 60 cents per share.

Other companies reporting on Tuesday include Clorox (CL, Fortune 500), credit card processor MasterCard (MA, Fortune 500), media company CBS (CBS, Fortune 500), and food processor Archer Daniels Midland Co (ADM, Fortune 500).

The Commerce Department puts out its March factory orders report at 10 a.m. ET, with economists looking for a 2.5% rise compared to February's 0.1% decline.

Investors will also get monthly auto sales figures from the major car makers starting around 11 a.m. ET. (see correction below)

"We haven't seen any evidence that U.S. consumers are pulling back because of energy costs, but one of those ways it could show up could be in car sales," said Paul Zemsky, head of asset allocation with ING Financial.

Wednesday -- Wall Street will get the first of three jobs-related economic reports out this week on Wednesday when ADP releases its April private sector employment report at 8:15 a.m. ET. Economists expect that the private sector created 200,000 jobs in April, about the same as the 201,000 created the month prior.

The ADP report is often used as a forecast of Friday's more-important government jobs report.

Also out on Wednesday is the Institute for Supply Management's service sector index at 10 a.m. ET, with economists forecasting a reading of 57.5.

In earnings, media companies News Corp. (NWSA) and TimeWarner (TWX, Fortune 500) will report their results. News Corp is expected to earn 27 cents a share when it reports after the closing bell, while TimeWarner is expected to earn 57 cents a share. (TimeWarner is the parent company of CNNMoney.)

Investors will also get results from Prudential Financial, WholeFoods (WFMI, Fortune 500), MetLife (MET, Fortune 500) and video game publisher Electronic Arts (ERTS, Fortune 500).

Thursday -- Dow component Kraft reports its results on Thursday, with analysts expecting the food processor to earn 47 cents a share. Investors will also get results from Priceline.com (PCLN), Visa and government-owned insurance company AIG (AIG, Fortune 500), among others.

Investors will get weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET as well as first-quarter productivity figures from the Labor Department. Initial clams are expected to fall to 400,000, according to economist forecasts.

Friday -- All eyes on Friday will be on the Labor Department's jobs report, out at 8:30 a.m. ET.

In earnings, newspaper publisher Washington Post Co. (WPO, Fortune 500) will release its results, along with utility and natural gas company Constellation Energy (CEG, Fortune 500).

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the S&P 500 index was being rebalanced; it also incorrectly reported auto sales would be reported on Monday.  To top of page

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