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The "January Effect" -- where stocks tend to see outsized gains during the month -- is off to a roaring start in 2012. The Dow Jones (INDEX: ^DJI ) rocketed up 1.47% yesterday, while the Nasdaq (INDEX: ^IXIC ) saw 1.67% gains and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) surged 1.55%.
A number of events drove markets forward. Manufacturing saw its fastest growth rate in six months while construction spending also saw gains. And since we are now in a global economy, often seeing huge swings at the slightest hint of European weakness, it didn't hurt that positive economic news also came out of China. That country's manufacturing index ticked up after dipping in November.
But after yesterday's rally, is there still fuel for further gains this week and beyond? This week, only a single company from the S&P 500, Constellation Brands, reports earnings. That means any further market moves will be dictated largely by macroeconomic indicators. Up today, factory orders and auto and truck sales will both be announced. While auto sales are a huge component of consumer spending, the measure's importance as an indicator of economic direction has gone down as auto sales stay mired significantly below their 2005 high.
Barring more calamity in Europe, that means the big show for investors this week will be the releasing of nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate on Friday. The unemployment rate is expected to edge up to 8.7%. While the market is still humming from a stronger-than-expected holiday retail season, any unexpected declines in the country's employment will shift attention back to the country's still-ailing job market.
And if the past six months are any indication, you can expect some pretty heavy volatility either up or down on Friday as a result. Just remember, if you're invested for the long term, volatility like we've seen the past six months can be scary, but it can also provide a great opportunity to buy well-run companies at dirt-cheap prices.
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