Week ahead: Hoping for Thanksgiving cheer

Investors gear up for a holiday-shortened trading week that brings news about Obama's economic team, reports on housing, GDP, income and spending.

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By Alexandra Twin, CNNMoney.com senior writer

Since the start of the recent market meltdown, how often do you check your 401(k) balance?
  • Once a day
  • Once a week
  • Once a month
  • I can't bear to look

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Wall Streeters returning to work Monday have at least one thing they can be thankful for: Thanksgiving is one less day the market is open.

And after a week in which the S&P 500 fell to 11-1/2-year lows, an auto sector bailout went kaput and Citigroup stock fell to under $4 a share, investors need a break.

Still, for a holiday-shortened trading week, there's a lot on tap, with a series of economic reports jammed in the day before Thanksgiving. The buffet includes reports on jobless claims, income and spending, manufacturing, housing and consumer sentiment.

In addition, investors will be attuned to the latest on President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet picks. Stocks managed a big late-session rally Friday after a slew of likely cabinet appointments, including the much-anticipated Treasury secretary post, gave investors a reason to jump in at multi-year lows. (Full story)

Obama is expected to formally announce his economic team Monday, which should serve to reassure investors and subsequently give some support to flailing stocks.

In the week ended Wed. Nov. 19, investors pulled roughly $19.5 billion out of equity mutual funds, according to tracking firm Trim Tabs. In the previous week, investors pulled $31.8 billion out of funds. Investors have now cashed out of equity funds in 16 of the last 17 weeks.

"People have been wanting to see some leadership, so the announcements could alleviate some of the fear that's been in the markets," said Ryan Detrick, chief technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research.

Investors may also benefit from the seasonal tendency of stocks to post gains in the trading days surrounding Thanksgiving, according to the Stock Trader's Almanac. Between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Monday after, the Dow has gained in 14 of the last 20 years by an average of 470 points.

But in a year in which seasonal factors haven't been relevant, the Thanksgiving cheer that often pushes stocks higher may not be in effect. Holiday trading weeks are typically low trading volume and that can exacerbate volatility. Also, the U.S. financial markets will have a shortened session on Friday.

Economic news

Monday: October existing home sales are expected to have fallen to a 5.05 million unit annual rate from a 5.18 million unit rate in September, according to a Briefing.com survey of economists.

Tuesday: Third-quarter GDP is expected to be revised lower, showing that economic activity fell at a steeper rate than previously reported. GDP is expected to have fallen at an 0.6% annual rate from an initial drop of 0.3%. GDP grew at a 2.8% rate in the second quarter.

Also Tuesday, the Conference Board releases its November consumer confidence index. The index is expected to improve modestly to 39.5 from 38 in October.

Wednesday: Durable goods orders are expected to have fallen 2.5% in October after rising 0.8% in September.

Personal income is expected to have risen 0.1% in October after rising 0.2% in September. Personal spending is expected to have fallen 0.7% in the month after falling 0.3% in September.

The Chicago PMI is expected to join other November regional manufacturing reports in showing that the sector remains in recession. PMI is expected to have risen modestly to 38.5 from 37.8 in October.

The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index is expected to have been revised up fractionally to 58.0 from the previous dismal reading of 57.9.

New home sales are expected to have fallen to a 450,000 annual unit rate in October from a 464,000 annual until rate in September.

Investors will also be keeping an eye on the weekly unemployment report to see if the recent extension in unemployment benefits will bump up the continuing claims number from the 26-year high it hit last week. There were no economists' estimates available for the report.

Thursday: All financial markets are closed for Thanksgiving.

Friday: Financial markets close at 1 p.m. ET on Friday. Black Friday sales reports will pour in, giving investors a better sense of how weak the critical holiday period might be for the nation's chain stores.  To top of page

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