Stocks: Jobs, Syria in focus

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Investors are filled with uncertainty in this first week of September, with the threat of a U.S. military strike on Syria and a potentially impactful jobs report looming.

All eyes will continue to be on the unraveling situation in the Middle East this week. Stocks traded lower and oil and gold higher as Syria dominated the headlines last week and over the weekend. All three U.S. stock indexes ended the week down nearly 2%.

U.S. military action appeared imminent until Saturday, when President Obama announced he would first seek Congress' approval. With Congress on recess until Sept. 9, stocks could continue to be volatile throughout the week.

While much is in flux overseas, investors also have more uncertainty to contend with at home.

Investors will get several looks as the labor market this week, including payroll processor ADP's private sector jobs report on Thursday. But the main event will come when the Labor Department releases its monthly jobs report and unemployment rate on Friday.

These reports are particularly important this month, as investors wait on pins and needles to find out whether the Federal Reserve will cut back on its monthly bond purchases.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke first hinted in June that the central bank could pull back on its stimulus measures. He made it clear that the decision to begin slowing asset purchases would be based on the strength of the job market.

Many believe that the Fed could start tapering as early as this month, dubbing the ninth month of the year "Septaper."

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With so much riding on the jobs numbers, investors will be scrutinizing them closely. Economists surveyed by are expecting non-farm payrolls to have increased by 177,000 jobs in August. They anticipate the unemployment rate to hold at 7.4%.

Aside from the employment picture and news out of Syria, investors will get a broader look at the U.S. economy when the Fed releases its beige book on Wednesday.

Several other key economic reports are due out throughout the week, including construction spending and auto sales.

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