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European Markets

 

European markets are called to open flat this morning. The London Stock Exchange is closed for Spring Break.

Asian Markets

Asian stocks swung between gains and losses after reports showed consumer spending in the U.S. increased less than economists’ estimates and sales of previously owned homes fell. Australian gold producer St. Barbara Ltd. gained as the bullion’s price rose.

St. Barbara gained 1.1 percent in Sydney. Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., the world’s biggest shipbuilder, increased 1.8 percent in Seoul after BNP Paribas raised its share-price forecast. Sony Corp., Japan’s largest exporter of consumer electronics, declined 2 percent in Tokyo. Honda Motor Co., which gets about 44 percent of sales in North America, dropped 1.3 percent after hackers accessed personal data of customers in Canada.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 134.39 as of 2:38 p.m. in Tokyo, with the regional benchmark index swinging between gains and losses at least six times. About the same number of stocks rose and fell on the gauge, which last week completed its longest string of weekly losses in two years as concern deepened over Europe’s debt crisis and amid speculation a slowing global recovery will crimp earnings.

“Equity markets will continue to have a correction as leading indicators in the U.S. are softening,” Pu Yonghao, Hong Kong-based chief investment strategist for Asia Pacific at UBS Wealth Management, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “The market is basically waiting for a confirmation that the U.S. economic recovery is genuine.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.1 percent. South Korea’s Kospi Index lost 0.4 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained 0.5 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.4 percent.

 

US Markets

 

The economy and jobs will be front and center this week — whether investors like it or not.

The agenda is heavy on economic reports and culminates with the release on Friday of the government’ monthly jobs report.

CNNMoney’ survey of economists forecasts that the U.S. economy created 178,000 jobs in May, down from 244,000 jobs a month earlier. The unemployment rate is expected to tick down to 8.9% from 9%.

While always closely watched, this report will be especially critical.

Stocks are on pace to have their worst month in a year after several pieces of economic data came up short of expectations.

Weekly claims on jobless benefits, a real-time indicator of the labor market, have remained stubbornly above 400,000 for seven weeks. Meanwhile other measures of the health of the economy, such as pending home sales and gross domestic product, have also been disappointing.

GDP report: Economic growth still weak

“It looks like the foot is coming off the economic accelerator,” said Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist with D.A. Davidson & Co.

Several market observers said they expect that stocks will continue to decline heading into the summer, particularly as investors prepare for the end of the Federal Reserve’ quantitative easing program in June.

Other closely-watched data out this week will be the Institute for Supply Management’ manufacturing and service sector reports and the Commerce Department’ factory orders report.

U.S. stock and bond markets are closed on Monday in observance of Memorial Day.

 

Events this week

Tuesday: The Chicago Purchasing Managers index will be released at 9:45 a.m. ET, followed by the Conference Board’ consumer sentiment data at 10 a.m.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com expect that the Chicago PMI index fell to a reading of 62.5 from April’ 67.6, while consumer confidence rose to 66.3 from 65.4.

Also out on Tuesday is the S&P Case-Shiller home prices report, which is expected to show that home prices fell 3.4% in March.

 

Wednesday: The first of this week’ jobs-related economic reports will be released on Wednesday: ADP private-sector employment at 8:15 a.m. and Challenger job cuts at 7:30 a.m.

Both sets of data are typically used to forecast the government’ monthly jobs data, which is out on Friday. For the ADP report, economists expect that private employers created 170,000 jobs in May.

At 10 a.m., the Institute for Supply Management will release its May manufacturing index and the Commerce Department will issue its April construction spending report.

The ISM Index is expected to slip to 57.6 from April’ reading of 60.4, while construction spending is expected to decrease 0.5%.

The major auto manufacturers also release their May sales figures on Wednesday, starting at around 11 a.m.

 

Thursday: The Labor Department will release the initial jobless claims report at 8:30 a.m., as well as first quarter productivity figures.

Weekly jobless claims are expected to fall to 413,000, while first-quarter productivity figures will remain unchanged at 1.6% growth.

Also out on Thursday is the Commerce Department’ April factory orders report, which is expected to fall 0.9%.

Friday: All eyes on Friday will be on the May jobs report, out at 8:30 a.m.

 

The Institute for Supply Management will put out its May services index at 10 a.m. Economists are looking for the ISM services index to edge up to 53.3 from April’ 52.8