Wall Street's rebound from its first full-fledged correction in more than four years could continue this week if investors believe a plan to keep millions of Americans from losing their homes can work.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is expected to announce as early as Wednesday details of the proposal to hold interest- rate payments steady for many subprime borrowers who are facing higher rates and possible foreclosure.
The poor judgment of a few has had a ripple effect on the whole economy, said Ernest Csak, vice president at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey. If they can stem the bleeding and restore investor confidence, that will be good for the market.
After a beating in the first three weeks of November that drove the market down more than 10 percent below its October closing highs, stocks rallied last week on news that the Paulson plan was imminent and speculation there will be an interest-rate cut at the December 11 meeting.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke bolstered hopes for more rate cuts on Thursday, saying that a resurgence in financial strains in recent weeks had dimmed the outlook for the U.S. economy.
The speculation about interest rates will be a major factor for stocks next week, said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at Morgan Asset Management, in Birmingham, Alabama.
But instead of Wall Street trading floors being abuzz with speculation about whether the Fed will cut rates, the focus will be on how deep a potential cut could be, he said.
On Friday, bets on the December Fed meeting in options on fed funds futures were almost evenly split as to the size of a rate cut, according to Cleveland Fed analysts.
A quarter point seems to me to be a given, said Craig Hester, chairman, president and CEO of Hester Capital Management. I would not rule out a more substantial move just to help unlock the credit markets because they seem to be in a true state of paralysis.
Financial stocks will remain in focus, analysts said, as fallout from the beleaguered credit markets plays out.
In November's final week, Abu Dhabi took a stake in Citigroup and Citadel Investment Group infused cash into online brokerage E*Trade. There could be similar deals to come in the weeks ahead, said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at New York brokerage Spencer Clarke.
For the past week, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI climbed 3 percent, the S&P 500 gained 2.8 percent and the Nasdaq gained 2.5 percent. That healthy weekly scorecard was in spite of a mixed performance on Friday, when both the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 ended higher, while the Nasdaq declined.
But for the month of November, stocks tumbled. The Dow declined 4 percent, the S&P 500 fell 4.4 percent, and the Nasdaq slid 6.9 percent, its worst monthly drop since July 2004, when it slumped 7.8 percent. November was the worst month for the Dow and the S&P 500 since December 2002.
For the year so far, though, all three major U.S. stock indexes are higher: The blue-chip Dow average is up 7.3 percent, while the S&P 500 is up 4.4 percent and the Nasdaq is up 10.2 percent.
SLIGHT JOBS GROWTH FORECAST
Friday's monthly jobs report will be scoured for more clues on the health of the economy and for evidence to underscore the market's view that a rate cut is on the horizon, the analysts said.
Economists polled by Reuters expect U.S. employers to have added only 75,000 jobs in November -- sharply below the 166,000 jobs created in October.
The U.S. unemployment rate is projected to rise to 4.8 percent in November from 4.7 percent in October, while average hourly earnings are likely to have risen 0.3 percent in November, compared with a gain of 0.2 percent in October, the Reuters poll showed. The Fed closely watches average hourly earnings as an indicator of pressure on wages, which could contribute to inflation.
Apart from the jobs report, the week's economic data includes a pair of reports on the economy from the Institute for Supply Management. On Monday,the ISM's report on U.S. manufacturing conditions will be released. The median forecast of economists polled by Reuters for the ISM's manufacturing index is 50.5, down from 50.9 in October.
The ISM report on the service sector of the economy is scheduled for Wednesday, with economists expecting a reading of 55.0 in November, down from 55.8 in October.
Other economic data in the week will include domestic car and truck sales for November, factory orders for October, pending home sales for November, the ADP employment report for November, revised third-quarter productivity and unit labor cost data and a preliminary December reading on consumer sentiment from the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.
Sam Rahman, portfolio manager at Baring Asset Management Inc. in Boston, said policy changes at central bank meetings in the UK and Europe will garner a lot of attention, as a rate cut from either would weaken their currencies against the dollar.
Economists polled by Reuters do not expect a change in European Central Bank rates from 4 percent, where they have been since June. UK rates are seen on hold in December, but economists gave a roughly one in three chance of a cut.