For once, the always important jobs report could be treated just like any other run-of-the-mill economic report in the week ahead.
Instead, the flurry of activity in Congress before it takes spring break, and President Donald Trump's first formal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping top the list of what market pros are watching. There are also minutes from the last Fed meeting, and auto sales, important after a slowdown in consumer spending last month.
"Employment is always a focus, but my guess is it's going to be soft, relative to trend because of the weather, and nobody's going to care because it's a weather story if it's weak," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank. The jobs report is always seen as the single most important data point for the Fed, but the Fed is not expected to raise interest rates again until June, after two more employment reports.
Friday's March employment report is expected to show 180,000 nonfarm payrolls were added, well below the roughly 235,000 in both January and February. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 4.7 percent, and average hourly wages are expected to rise 0.3 percent.
LaVorgna said he is instead more concerned about what goes on in Washington, with Congress winding down before its spring break. "It's more important to me what they say about the continuing resolution. They'll have about four days to extend it when they return," he said.
The continuing resolution to fund the government is the next big test for Congress after it failed to vote on replacing Obamacare last week. It now needs to reach agreement on a spending package to avert a government shutdown by April 28. "That's why the rumblings from D.C. are more important than the data," said LaVorgna.
Wells Fargo Investment Institute chief international investment strategist Paul Christopher says the meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping tops his list.
"The China meeting is newer news. The jobs report is still important. We've been saying the market will focus on the wage gains," he said.
Christopher said the meeting will be the first real look at the Trump administration's trade dealings with China, a topic that has concerned but not really affected the market.