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WEEK AHEAD: Watching the Fed, Stock Market Bulls and Is It Time to Buy Real Estate?

Friday, 6 Apr 2007 | 1:17 PM ET

A burst of optimism from March's rosy jobs data could help the post-holiday week get off to a good start. Minutes from the last Fed meeting, inflation data and the first big reports of the earnings season greet investors in the coming week.

Jobs data, released Friday while the stock market was closed, gave a boost to the dollar and the S&P futures. The 180,000 increase in non farm payrolls was well above estimates of 142,000. "The bond market's decided things (in the economy) are stronger," says our Steve Liesman of that market's reaction to the number.

The stock market this last week was on its longest winning streak in months. The Dow gained 1.7% for the week, taking it just 226 points beneath the record high it made on Feb. 20. The Nasdaq rose 2.1% this week, the third largest weekly gain since the beginning of the year. The S&P 500 last week was up 1.6% for the week and is up 1.8% since Jan. 1. The Dow is in positive territory for the year, up 0.8% and the Nasdaq is up 2.3% for the year.

IS GOOD NEWS REALLY GOOD? Our Bob Pisani says there's a floor of buyers under the stock market right now, and they are giving it some surprising strength in the face of mixed economic data. "We are at an inflection point right now. In the next month or two we'll have a clearer view," Pisani says.

"Emotionally, we're at the point we were at last July or August," he says, noting investors were struggling at the time with the idea the economy might not make a soft landing.

Of course, investors hoping for bad news to help move the Fed toward a rate cut could be disappointed by the employment numbers, but those who see it as a sign of strength for the economy and therefore business could count it as fuel for a bull argument. Strategas, in a report reacting to the data, says the wage data inside the report will keep the Fed on alert for inflation. So that too dispels the notion the Fed might cut rates. By Monday, investors though may just see it as a blip and will be ready to move on.

OIL PRESSURE DROPS Crude oil last week gave back some of the gains it made the week earlier as tensions dissipated over Iran's detention of 15 British sailors. The price per barrel fell 2.4% for the week, and as the sailors returned to Britain Thursday it continued to slide. Gasoline again moved higher, up 3.4% for the 11th weekly gain in a row for the contract traded at NYMEX. May gasoline futures ended at $2.1288 per gallon.

TIME TO BUY The housing market's hangover continues to play out on your street and across America. On Tuesday, CNBC will take an in-depth look at the Spring real estate market and show you the opportunities and pitfalls that are out there this year. See Tara Siegel-Bernard's "Second home buying guide" on CNBC.com this weekend and CNBC.com's full coverage of the real estate markets Tuesday.

MERGER MANIA It wouldn't be Monday if a few big merger headlines don't join the mix, so we'll be watch for new deals and we will keep our focus on the fate of Chrysler. Our Phil Lebeau, as you may recall, told us several weeks ago that Tracinda was eyeing Daimler-Chrysler's efforts to unload Chrysler so it was no surprise when investor Kirk Kerkorian and sidekick Jerome York stepped forth with a proposal Thursday.

Mad Money's Jim Cramer thinks Tracinda might end up with Chrysler, and he has a few words for doubters. "It's almost as if you think they haven't done any homework ore read the papers! You see time and time again, the market underestimates the brain power of these two. I think these two guys are very savvy," he said. Private equity players have yet to make any public

FED SPEAK Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks Wednesday at 1 pm EDT in New York. His topic is market discipline and regulation and he will take questions from the audience so we will be watching.

Also out and about are Fed Government Frederic Mishkin who speaks on monetary policy in Virginia Tuesday morning, and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser who speaks on credibility and commitment at the University of Delaware that same day. Chicago Fed President Michael Moskow speaks on the economy in Kenilworth, Ill. Wednesday

FED MINUTES AND DATA The most important economic release of the week could be the FOMC minutes, which are reported Wednesday, says Liesman. "They'll enlighten us on the issue of changing the bias," he says.

Retailers will report March sales on Thursday, and this should give a good look at the consumer. Our Margaret Brennan reports that retailers may see a bump in March from Easter sales but those sales could cut into April's results.

On Tuesday, the Blue Chip economic forecast is release as is the NFIB Survey, a read on small business. Jobless claims and import and export prices are reported Thursday. On Friday, there is inflation data in the form of PPI (producer prices). International trade data and University of Michigan consumer sentiment are also released that day.

The European Central Bank has a rate announcement Thursday and the Bank of Japan meets Monday. The G-7 meets in Washington Friday, followed by the spring meeting of the IMF and the World Bank Saturday and Sunday.

EARNINGS CENTRAL The first big blue chip to report earnings, as usual is Alcoa. It reports after the bell Tuesday, and GE, CNBC's parent, reports earnings Friday morning. The following week, the fun begins with a big rush of earnings news.