Stocks: Ahead of the election, jobs in focus
Investors waiting to see whether hurricane will close markets
With just over one week left until the hotly contested presidential elections, investors will pin their attention on the domestic economy this week.
The stock markets will be open for electronic trading as Hurricane Sandy hits New York City on Monday. The New York Stock Exchange has temporarily closed its trading floor on Wall Street because of its proximity to evacuation areas in New York City.
New York has declared a state of emergency and New York City has suspended subway service starting at 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Otherwise, analysts expect investors to stay quiet ahead of the election, even though a number of reports are on tap to give investors and voters alike a snapshot of the U.S. economic landscape before they head to the polls.
"This is a fairly important election in terms of where things go in terms of policy next year," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG. "In front of that, with a fair bit of uncertainty, people are going to hold off and wait to see what happens."
Several jobs-related reports are on tap this week to give voters the latest on the strength of the labor market. Jobs has been a central issue facing the candidates on Nov. 6.
Metro area employment and ADP's payroll report will lead up to the closely-watched monthly jobs report from the Labor Department on Friday. Last month, the unemployment rate fell to the lowest level in more than three years and hiring was stronger than originally reported throughout the summer.
Although the unemployment rate is back to where it was when Obama entered office, the U.S. economy has still not recovered all the jobs lost before his inauguration.
"Unless there's a meaningful deviation from the trend," Greenhaus said he doesn't expect the markets to move too much.
Investors will also get data on U.S. manufacturing this week, with Chicago PMI, factory orders and the Institute of Supply Management's monthly reading.
Last month, domestic manufacturing activity grew for the first time in four months.
Investors will also know if the housing market has continued to gain steam. It's been a bright spot in an otherwise slow-moving economic recovery. Reports on mortgages, the Case-Shiller 20 city index and construction spending are due out throughout the week.
Last week, there were several signs that the housing market is stabilizing, with foreclosure rates falling across the country and new home sales hitting a two-year high.
How consumers are feeling heading into the holiday season will also be in play when personal income and spending, consumer confidence and auto sales come out this week.
Along with big economic reports, corporate earnings will also be a focus this week, with Ford, Exxon Mobil, AIG, Starbucks, Chevron and Berkshire Hathaway expected to report third-quarter earnings.
Facebook will be back in the news: Monday will be the first day many employees can sell some of their stock holdings and turn their paper wealth into actual cash. Some 234 million shares of the social media giant's stock will be newly eligible for sale.
If a large number of them decide to sell immediately, the stock could suffer a drop, which is what happened in August. Shares fell 6% on the day that some of Facebook's investors and earliest executives had the first chance to sell their shares.
More than half of the S&P 500 companies have reported third-quarter financial results so far, and while more than 70% have delivered earnings above Wall Street's estimates, only 36% have topped sales forecasts, according to FactSet Research. That is well below the average of 55% that typically beat revenue estimates.
Moreover, companies have been tepid in their outlooks for the remainder of the year.
U.S. stocks posted their second weekly loss in three weeks. The Dow Jones industrial average declined 1.8%, the S&P 500 slid 1.5%, and the Nasdaq dropped 0.6% during the week.
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