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Week ahead: Time to get back to business and give that jobs report a 'rethink'

Businessman on the beach back to business
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With not much on the calendar, market focus in the week ahead will move to things like the price of oil, a few economic reports and whatever the winds blow in from overseas.

August's jobs report Friday was a disappointment with 151,000 nonfarm payrolls, 30,000 fewer than expected, and many traders took it as a sign the Fed won't be hiking rates this month. That was an immediate positive for stocks, which ended the week slightly higher.

But it also keeps the market focus firmly on data, after jobs data missed forecasts and the U.S. ISM manufacturing survey showed a shocking contraction in activity. The ISM services data is released Tuesday and is seen as the key data for a week that also includes Wednesday's Fed Beige Book release and JOLTS, jobs turnover data, and Friday's wholesale trade.


Over the long Labor Day weekend, China releases services PMI data, and Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda speaks Monday. Central banks will be a big theme in September, with the European Central Bank meeting Thursday. The Bank of Japan and the Fed both meet on Sept. 20 and 21.

But for the U.S., the coming week could be a relatively quiet one with just two Fed speakers — San Francisco Fed President John Williams on Tuesday evening and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren Friday morning.

"We've kind of run out of wait-and-see moments," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, referring to the market anticipation around the late August Jackson Hole Fed symposium and Friday's August employment reports.

"Look out for a rethink with much higher market participation. On the jobs number, what does it actually mean when we have the players back on the field," he said.

Just the arrival of September signals a higher level of activity in the markets now that the late summer doldrums are over, and analysts have said that could bring more volatility.

Wall Street is closed Monday, but it could literally be buffeted by hurricane force winds as Hermine makes its way up the East Coast, and it was expected to send high waves to East Coast beaches.

But volatility in the markets may be slow in making a comeback once September trading gets underway. On Friday, the CBOE's VIX traded below 12. The Volatility Index was last this low on Aug. 23.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch equities strategists have been expecting a pullback. Their forecast is for the market to end the year much lower — at 2,000 on the S&P 500. The S&P 500 closed at 2,179 Friday, a half percent gain for the week.

"To me, with such weak data and all the macro risks, I think the onus is more on the bulls to tell us why the market can go higher. I can't think of many arguments for the market to go higher here," said Daniel Suzuki, BofAML equity strategist.

Suzuki said he's watching a few things that will help clarify the outlook. "We're going to point to three things. It's the Fed speeches. It's the signals from the economic data. Are things getting better or worse, and it's the presidential debates," said Suzuki. "We're definitely on the cautious side."

Tony Roth, CIO of Wilmington Trust, said markets could be quiet in the coming week, but the presidential election could start to become a factor.

"The biggest negative is probably the election. I think if the polls picked up and Trump closes any kind of gap against Clinton, that causes more uncertainty," he said. Roth said that uncertainty would also keep the Fed sidelined, because Republican Donald Trump's policies are less certain than those of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Economists still mostly believe the Fed will not hike rates until December at the earliest. Goldman Sachs, however, said there was a 55 percent chance the Fed could still hike in September because job growth was strong enough.

Others disagree, including BofA. "I think if you couple the weak jobs report with the weak ISM number, it's definitely enough to give you pause," said Suzuki.

Traders are also watching the price of oil, which sank during the past week, dragging on stocks, before rallying hard on Friday. West Texas Intermediate futures closed at $44.44 per barrel, after rising nearly 3 percent Friday.

Markets will also be watching G-20 with leaders meeting over the weekend, and President Obama meets with leaders at an Asian summit later in the week. The president is expected to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is opposed by both Trump and Clinton.

"I think if the TPP would get some momentum, that would be positive for the market. If it happened, it would have to happen after the election," Roth said.