Economic indicators have been fairly strong over the past few months, and last week's surprise upward revision in GDP growth should have been a big confidence booster for investors. But instead of a good week for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) and S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) , we were flat last week as investors worried about the fiscal cliff and our economic future.
When one batch of numbers is reported, traders often forget about them and move on to the next important report about the economy. So here are three numbers to watch this week.
On Monday, the Institute for Supply Management, or ISM, releases a report on U.S. manufacturing activity. Investors are looking for a reading of 51.7, which indicates a slight expansion in manufacturing, as all figures over 50 do.
The final two numbers are related to the all-important U.S. jobs market. The Department of Labor releases November's nonfarm payroll numbers and the unemployment rate on Friday. The consensus estimate is for an increase of 80,000 in the payroll and a flat unemployment rate at 7.9%. This may look a little disappointing from a 171,000-job jump last month, but Hurricane Sandy is expected to have a negative impact on hiring.
Stocks to watch
This week, when these reports are released, I'll be watching for the reaction from investors in Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) , Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) .
Alcoa and Caterpillar are tied directly to economic activity and, more importantly, manufacturing, so a surprise in the ISM data could boost these stocks.
Bank of America is essentially a leveraged play on the recovery of the economy and when positive news is released, the stock usually jumps. Of course, the opposite can be true, too, so if employment numbers disappoint, it could be a rough week for Bank of America.
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