Eye on the consumer

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Obama, Bernanke and the jobs market are all in focus as the year's final month approaches.

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By Alexandra Twin, CNNMoney.com senior writer

Black Friday at Toys R Us
Hundreds of shoppers waited for hours ahead of the midnight opening at Toys R Us in New York's Times Square.
An eyeblink glance at the economy
The economy has grown for five straight quarters, but there are signs that the recovery is still fragile.
What are you doing this Thanksgiving weekend?
  • Staying home and doing little
  • Shopping for holiday bargains
  • Traveling
  • Working

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Wall Streeters returning Monday after an almost five-day holiday weekend better be well rested: the week ahead brings an onslaught of reports on retailers, consumer spending and the jobs market.

Financial markets were closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and Friday's half day was barely attended. Dubai's debt problems, a rallying dollar and a selloff in commodities dragged on stocks and may continue to exert pressure Monday.

But tempering that will be what looks to be a mildly positive start to the holiday shopping period. Reports released over the weekend suggest that despite the brutal jobs market, decline in personal wealth and lingering worries about the economy, consumers are willing to spend if the deal is right.

"So far, so good on Black Friday," said Karl Mills, chief investment officer at Jurika, Mills & Keifer. "But more important than what happens this weekend is what happens to the consumer longer term."

This week also brings significant readings on manufacturing, housing and the labor market, with the big November jobs report from the government due at the end of the week.

President Obama speaks Tuesday night about Afghanistan and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's confirmation hearing is Thursday.

Retail: Initial reports and projections for Black Friday and the weekend show consumers have been taking advantage of deals on clothing, toys, electronics and entertainment. Best Buy (BBY, Fortune 500), Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, Fortune 500), Toys R Us and Amazon.com (AMZN, Fortune 500) are among the companies that are already benefiting.

ShopperTrak, a retail analytic firm, said Black Friday sales were up 0.5% from last year.

Cyber Monday, the first day back to work after the holiday, will also be scrutinized for signs that the consumer is participating at a critical time for the economy.

Most economists believe the recession is over, thanks in part to copious amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus. But an unemployment rate at a 26-year high of 10.2%, lower household income and a still-tight lending environment mean any recovery is likely to be tepid.

Consumer spending fuels roughly two-thirds of economic growth and, with some of the government stimulus programs set to wind down, a still-reticent consumer could be a disaster.

Slide or surge anew? Despite ongoing calls for a bigger selloff, the market has shown an amazing amount of resilience over the last 10 months, posting only slim declines during an otherwise strong, upward trek.

Since closing at a 12-year low on March 9, the S&P 500 has gained just over 60%. Year-to-date, it's gained 21%.

Yet, there is little to suggest a selloff is brewing as the year winds down.

"There are only five weeks left in the year and we are likely to see a measured move up," said David Levy, portfolio manager at Kenjol Capital Management.

"With only a few small corrections since March, the people who are still sitting on the sidelines are going to have to jump in," he said.

On the docket

Monday: Black Friday passes the torch to Cyber Monday, the big online shopping day that follows the long Thanksgiving weekend.

The Chicago PMI, a regional read on manufacturing, is due out shortly after the start of trading. The index is expected to have fallen to 53 from 54.2 in October.

Tuesday: The ISM Manufacturing index is the standout on a busy day for economic news. The index is expected to have fallen to 54.8 from 55.7 in October.

Construction spending for October is expected to have fallen 0.4% after rising 0.8% in September.

The pending home sales index for October is expected to have fallen 0.5% after rising 6.1% in the previous month.

Also on tap: reports on November auto and truck sales.

On Tuesday evening, President Obama is expected to announce his strategy on Afghanistan in a speech given at West Point, N.Y. (For a preview of what to look for, click here.)

Wednesday: Payroll services firm ADP releases its survey on private-sector employment shortly before the start of trading. Employers in the private sector are expected to have cut 148,000 jobs from their payrolls in November, after cutting 203,000 in the previous month.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas will also release its November report on planned job cut announcements in the morning. In the afternoon, the Fed releases its periodic "beige book" report on the economy.

Thursday: The weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department is due before the start of trading. Approximately 483,000 Americans are expected to have filed new claims for unemployment, up from 466,000 the previous week.

Continuing claims - a measure of people who have been receiving benefits for a week or more - is expected to have risen to 5,517,000 from 5,423,000 the previous week.

The nation's retailers release their sales figures for November in the early morning. The figures will include the critical Black Friday period.

At 10 a.m. ET the Senate Banking Committee holds a confirmation hearing on Ben Bernanke's second term as Federal Reserve Chairman.

The revised reading on third-quarter productivity, the third-quarter employment cost index and the November ISM services sector index are all due as well.

Friday: The November employment report from the Labor Department is the biggest economic report of the week. Employers are expected to have cut 114,000 jobs from their payrolls in the month after cutting 190,000 in the previous month.

The unemployment rate, generated by a separate survey, is expected to hold steady at 10.2%, unchanged from October.

The October factory orders report is due out after the start of trading. Orders are expected to have risen 0.1% after rising 0.9% in September. To top of page

Wall Streeters returning Monday after an almost five-day holiday weekend better be well rested: the week ahead brings an onslaught of reports on retailers, consumer spending and the jobs market.
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