October was a very good month for stocks. Investors are heading into the first trading days of November having just seen monthly gains of 9% for both the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI).
In fact, both indexes are back in positive territory after having been down by 10% in mid-August.
This week's monthly employment report could set the tone for November. The nonfarm payrolls report is even more pivotal than usual, since it will play a key role in informing the Federal Reserve's decision on whether to raise interest rates when it next meets in December.
The jobs report is due out before markets open on Friday, Nov. 6. So far in 2015, the economy has added about 200,000 jobs per month while the unemployment rate has drifted down to a six-year low of 5.1%.
In the meantime, hundreds of public companies are set to post third-quarter results over the next several trading days, including such heavyweights as Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM), and Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS).
Tuesday, Nov. 3: Will Tesla hit its 2015 delivery target?
Tesla posts its results after the closing bell on Tuesday, and investors will be looking for the electric-car manufacturer to announce improving sales growth and profitability while booking an overall non-GAAP loss of $0.48 per share. We already know that CEO Elon Musk and his executive team managed to deliver 11,580 cars in the quarter.
But we'll find out this week whether gross margin rose from last quarter's 23% of sales, and whether increasing manufacturing efficiencies helped operating expenses grow at a slower pace than revenue, as they did in the second quarter.
Wall Street will also be keenly interested in what Musk has to say about expected fourth-quarter deliveries, the Gigafactory, the Model X production ramp-up, Tesla Energy, and any updated thinking on Tesla's planned mass-market vehicle, the Model 3.
Wednesday, Nov. 4: Can Whole Foods compete on price?
Bad publicity was partly to blame for Whole Foods' weak second-quarter results. The organic grocer in August posted 2% comparable-store sales growth in the wake of a weights-and-measures audit that found pricing disparities that led to significant overcharging of customers in some cases. Yet the former high-growth company is also struggling with broader problems, such as a rapidly shifting marketplace that's pushing organic food availability higher -- and prices lower.
It's an open question as to how a premium grocer can thrive in that environment. Long term, management's growth strategy involves branching out into the mass market with a new store concept launching next year. But in the meantime, it will need to fend off rivals to get customer traffic humming again. A quick rebound isn't likely to have happened in the third quarter. But with the stock down 40% in the past six months, investors might find the risk/reward balance more attractive now.
Thursday, Nov. 5: A Star Wars pop for Disney?
Thanks to a stock market swoon and falling subscriber numbers at sports channel ESPN, investors recently got the chance to buy shares of Disney at a 20% discount to its early August high. But they had to act quickly: The stock has already recovered almost all of that lost ground.
Slowing growth in Disney's media division seems likely to show up again in this quarter, but that weakness may be more than offset by gains in the company's super-profitable consumer products division since Star Wars-themed products began selling at Disney's September global retailing event.
CEO Bob Iger will be talking about The House of Mouse's booming toy licensing business, its media networks, and its hopes for an epic blockbuster result for the Star Wars: Episode VII film launching in December. Investors will also be keen to hear any updates about Disney's first theme park in China that's set to open next year.
John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of Tesla Motors, Walt Disney, and Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla Motors, Walt Disney, and Whole Foods Market. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.