NEW YORK – After they recover from extra helpings of Thanksgiving turkey, analysts and stock investors will feast on a smorgasbord of economic figures this week.
The data finale will come Friday, with the crucial November U.S. payrolls report.
With the holiday shopping season now in full swing, Wall Street will keep a close eye on Thursday's monthly sales figures from retailers. Some of the figures may offer early clues into holiday spending and whether "Black Friday" — the day after Thanksgiving, when shoppers flock to malls and outlets — was a success.
Auto makers issue monthly sales Wednesday.
Oil prices remain in focus, after weighing heavily on the market ever since rising above $50 a barrel earlier this year.
Market players will also pay heed to the falling dollar, which has seized Wall Street's attention lately.
"As long as oil doesn't rise too high, and the dollar doesn't fall too low, I think we'll continue to see a pretty good market," said Edward Hemmelgarn, chief investment officer at Shaker Investments.
Oil prices climbed back toward $50 a barrel Wednesday on winter supply worries, after sliding below $48 a barrel earlier in the day. The New York Mercantile Exchange (search) was closed Friday for the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Oil prices, which have soared more than 50 percent this year, have often held the stock market back as investors worry that rising energy prices will sap corporate profits and curb spending by consumers who pay more for gasoline at the pump.
On Friday, the dollar recovered from a sharp drop that took it to new lows against the euro on reports China might be cutting back on its accumulation of dollar reserves. It was the fourth straight day the dollar hit new lows against the euro.
A weaker dollar makes U.S. products cheaper overseas, which helps U.S. companies improve their offshore earnings from demand fueled by bargain-hunting shoppers.
But investors can be reluctant to buy U.S. assets if they expect the dollar to continue to weaken and reduce the value of those investments.
"Further declines in the U.S. dollar could really rattle the markets' cage," said David Buik, head of business strategy at spread-betting firm Cantor Index.
For the holiday-shortened week, the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.6 percent, while the broad Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 1.05 percent, and the tech-laced Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 1.51 percent.
The first big serving of economic data next week arrives Tuesday, with Chicago PMI and consumer confidence figures due. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (search), or Chicago PMI, a measure of business activity in the U.S. Midwest, is expected to slip to 62.5 for the overall index reading in November from 68.5 in October.
The consumer confidence index for November, which will be released by The Conference Board (search), is forecast to rise to 96.5 from 92.8 last month, according to economists surveyed by Reuters. The Conference Board is a private research firm.
Wednesday, personal income and consumption data arrive, along with the Institute for Supply Management (search) index, which measures growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector.
The forecast calls for U.S. personal income to rise by 0.5 percent from a gain of just 0.2 percent in the previous period, while personal consumption is expected to rise 0.4 percent, below the previous gain of 0.6 percent, a Reuters poll of economists showed.
Economists expect the ISM index for November to rise to 57 from a reading of 56.8 in October.
Thursday's round of economic data includes weekly jobless claims, factory orders, and durable goods orders — or orders for long-lasting goods such as cars and refrigerators.
Of all the economic reports due next week, many consider Friday's November nonfarm payrolls data the most important, as it will offer broad clues about the health of the U.S. economy. Analysts polled by Reuters expect that non-farm payrolls added 180,000 jobs in November, compared with October's surprising gain of 337,000. The U.S. unemployment rate is forecast to fall to 5.4 percent in November from 5.5 percent in October.
"The market will steer a neutral course until Friday," Buik said. "If we get good jobs figures, I think we could see the market headed on a steady course through to Christmas."
In the earnings arena, Pall Corp., a maker of purification and filtration systems, grocery chain Albertsons Inc. and Dollar General Corp., which operates a chain of deep-discount retail stores, are among the handful of companies due to release their quarterly results.