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Data on employment, factory orders expected

From the Associated Press

With December underway, Wall Street might begin counting down the number of shopping days left -- not until the holidays but until retailers can say with certainty how the shopping season fared and whether consumer spending held up as hoped.

Investors have received mixed signals on the health of retailers and consumers in general recently. And in the coming week they will be eyeing reports on factory orders as well as unemployment to gauge whether the economy is headed toward a soft landing after more than two years of interest rate hikes.

Strong consumer spending has been a pillar of the robust economic growth seen in recent years, but uneven reports from retailers raised questions about whether consumers would deliver for Wall Street this year.

As it seeks more data on how consumers are faring, Wall Street will no doubt note Friday’s employment report from the Labor Department, particularly the job creation figure.

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Some on Wall Street keeping tabs on retailers are also watching the housing sector, wondering whether consumers might pare spending if they have concerns about falling home values.

A quarterly report from upscale home builder Toll Bros. Inc. this week could lend some insight on the state of the sector.

From the Associated Press

The week ahead

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Today

* Treasury bill auction.

Tuesday

* Labor Department reports on productivity and costs, revised figures for the third quarter of 2006.

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* Commerce Department reports on factory orders for October.

* Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearing on insider trading and hedge fund activity.

* Senate Finance Committee holds hearing on tax exemptions and incentives for higher education.

* Earnings reports due from Kroger, Novell and Toll.

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Wednesday

* Senate Judiciary Committee panel holds hearing on bankruptcy abuse prevention and consumer protection.

Thursday

* Labor Department reports on weekly jobless claims.

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* Federal Reserve reports on consumer credit for October.

* Freddie Mac reports on mortgage rates.

* Earnings report due from National Semiconductor.

Friday

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* Labor Department reports on employment for November.


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