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Investors eye corporate results after weak jobs data

After December's surprisingly weak jobs data took some of the shine off the US economic recovery, investors will be analysing this week's wave of corporate results for reassurance that better days lie ahead.

JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, General Electric, Intel and UnitedHealth are among companies reporting quarterly results this week.

"The market increasingly will be looking at top line revenue growth, and it wants to see expansion in the top line," Quincy Krosby, market strategist for Prudential Financial, which is based in Newark, New Jersey, told Reuters.

Friday's Labor Department report showed a 74,000 increase in payrolls in December, far less than the 197,000 expected and well below the revised 241,000 gain in November. The unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest in more than five years, as many people simply stopped looking for work.

Earlier in the week, both ADP employment and weekly jobless claims data had shown a further strengthening in the pace of corporate hiring. Even so, the upside of Friday's report was that the Federal Reserve might temper further easing of its monthly bond-buying programme, reduced to US$75 billion this month, from US$85 billion previously.

"If these numbers don't get revised upward, it will keep the Fed careful about wanting to taper too quickly," Quincy Krosby, a market strategist for Newark, New Jersey-based Prudential Financial, told Bloomberg News.

However, some Fed officials on Friday said the report won't alter their view or the pace of cutting stimulus.

"I would be disinclined to react to one month's number," St Louis Fed President James Bullard told reporters after speaking at an Indiana bankers event, Reuters reported. "For now we're on a programme where we're likely to continue to taper [asset purchases] at subsequent meetings."

Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker agreed.

"It takes a lot more than one labour market report to be convincing that the trend has shifted," Lacker told reporters after a speech to a business group in Raleigh. "I would expect a similar reduction in pace to be discussed at the upcoming meeting."

The next two-day FOMC meeting starts on Jan. 28.

Several Fed officials will share their views in the coming days. Among them is Ben Bernanke whose term as chairman expires on Jan. 31; he is scheduled to discuss challenges facing central banks, in Washington on Thursday.

First though, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart will talk on the economic outlook in Atlanta, on Monday, followed by Philadelphia Fed's Charles Plosser discussing the same topic in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher will speak on the US and regional outlook in Dallas, while San Francisco Fed President John Williams will talk about lessons from the Great Recession in Washington on Thursday.

It is also a busy week with economic data, including the NFIB small business optimism index, retail sales, import and export prices, and business inventories, due on Tuesday; producer price index, Empire State manufacturing survey, and Atlanta Fed business inflation expectations, due Wednesday; consumer price index, jobless claims, Philadelphia Fed survey, housing market index, due Thursday; and on Friday, housing starts, industrial production, and consumer sentiment.

Last week, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 0.6 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 1 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2 percent.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index increased 0.7 percent last week. The UK's FTSE 100 added 0.1 percent, as did France's CAC 40, while Germany's DAX rose 0.4 percent.

(BusinessDesk)

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