Can stocks shake off January jitters?

February 2, 2014: 8:53 AM ET
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

No matter how you slice it, January was a tough month for stocks.

Turmoil in emerging markets, mediocre corporate earnings and the Federal Reserve's further winding down of stimulus all weighed on the market last month.

So will the bull return to Wall Street in February? The week ahead will be key. Here's what to watch.

Economy in focus: Investors will have to wait until Friday for the biggest news of the week: the January jobs report.

The economy added only 74,000 jobs in December, but economists were quick to play down that report by blaming bad weather and pointing out that other economic data had been largely positive.

Investors will be looking at January's jobs number for assurances that the U.S. economy is continuing to pick up steam, as many economists have maintained.

Related: Economy grew solidly in fourth quarter

But there will be another reading on the labor market Wednesday: Payroll processing firm ADP reports on private sector job growth.

While the ADP employment figure is often viewed as a precursor to the government jobs report, that was far from the case in December, when ADP data indicated robust private sector hiring only days before the weak report from the government.

Data on auto sales from General Motors (GM), Ford (F), Toyota (TM) and other big car and truck makers comes out Monday. Auto sales are often viewed as an important indicator of consumer spending.

Despite a decline in December sales, the auto industry has been thriving lately. GM shares, for example, are up 30% in the past year.

Emerging markets strife still brewing: Still, the anxiety playing out in the emerging markets is hard to ignore.

"In the short run, markets are going to be volatile," said Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics.

World markets have been shaken in recent weeks by big currency drops in Turkey, India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa -- countries that have been dubbed the Fragile Five. With the Fed scaling back its bond buying program, the fear is that these markets will no longer be attractive investments now that the dollar is getting stronger.

Related: Worst is yet to come for Fragile Five

Investors have worried that the tumult could eventually reach American shores, as softening demand overseas could hit U.S. exports.

O'Sullivan believes two scenarios could play out: Either investors continue to fret about the emerging markets and stocks fall further, or the market decides the U.S. economy is actually doing fine and shrugs off the issues abroad. He notes that stocks remained resilient through the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s as the U.S. economy hummed along.

Europe will also be back in the spotlight this week. The European Central Bank is under significant pressure to cut interest rates as the risk of deflation on the continent has reared its ugly head. The ECB policy meeting will be held on Thursday.

Twitter ready for prime time: Earnings will continue to roll in this week. Of the 251 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported fourth quarter earnings so far, 74% have beat estimates, according to FactSet. But investors are worried about the outlooks from big companies: 44 firms have issued negative guidance for the current quarter, compared with just ten who have issued positive guidance.

Twitter (TWTR), one of the companies in CNNMoney's Tech 30 Index, will release its first earnings report since going public in November. It may be a misnomer to call them earnings though. Analysts are predicting a loss of 2 cents a share.

The stock has had a wild ride since its IPO. But most investors are still pretty bullish. The stock is up 150% from its offering price of $26 ... and is nearly 45% above its first day closing price. Shares rallied sharply late last week following strong results from social media rival Facebook (FB).

Linkedin (LNKD), AOL (AOL) and Yelp (YELP) are also on tap to report their latest quarterly results this week. So is Time Warner (TWX), the parent company of CNNMoney.

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