It's anyone's guess whether stocks will end up in positive or negative territory for 2015. Indexes had gained at as much as 4% -- and lost as much as 10% -- at one point this year. But heading into December, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) aren't far from where they began the year:
The week ahead is packed with important news, both for businesses and the economy. First, online selling giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is aiming to set a sales record on Cyber Monday. Then Kroger (NYSE:KR) hopes to continue its market-thumping grocery retailing growth pace on Thursday. And Friday's jobs report is likely to show continued steady improvement for the economy heading into a critical Federal Reserve announcement in mid-December.
Monday, Nov. 30 – Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday is Amazon's single busiest sales day of the year. In 2014 the e-commerce titan processed 43 million orders – or about 500 products per second – through a 24-hour span.
Expect that record to be smashed this week.
After all, e-commerce is a much larger percentage of the retailing pie right now. At last count, official statistics pegged online buying at 7.4% of all U.S. retail sales, up from 6.5% last year.
Meanwhile, Amazon appears to be grabbing a bigger portion of that fast-growing market. Its sales growth pace trounced rivals in the third quarter, which is a big reason why Wall Street pros think Amazon's sales will rise by 23% in the fourth quarter, up significantly from the 15% pace the retailer set over last year's holiday quarter.
Thursday, Dec. 3 – Kroger's earnings
Kroger aims to post its 48th consecutive quarter of comparable-store sales growth when it announces earnings results on Thursday. The grocery store chain has booked market-thumping comps all year, with last quarter's 5.3% improvement stacking up well to the 1% uptick that rivals Wal-Mart and Whole Foods managed.
The grocer has had to execute well across its business to win that customer loyalty from competitors. But its portfolio of corporate brands, including the organic and natural Simple Truth franchise, stands out as a key competitive advantage. Store brands account for 25% of Kroger's sales, and Simple Truth was its most successful brand launch ever, growing to $1 billion in annual sales in less than two years.
In September the company boosted its sales growth outlook, with management saying its customers "continue to feel optimistic about the economy." Investors are feeling flush too – the stock is near an all-time high heading into this week's earnings announcement.
Friday, Dec. 4 – Jobs, jobs, jobs
On Friday the government will publish its reading on employment creation for the month of November. Expectations are for the economy to have generated 200,000 new jobs as the unemployment rate holds steady at 5%. The average job growth over the past year has been 230,000 per month, while October's 5% unemployment rate was the lowest registered since April, 2008.
Friday's data release will be the last monthly jobs report before the Federal Reserve's December meeting, when it is widely expected the central bank will hike interest rate hike in nine years. Officials at the Fed are on record saying the economy appears strong enough to support that important monetary policy shift. Anything short of a much worse-than-expected jobs report likely wouldn't change that broad judgement.
John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com 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.