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November 28, 2006 > Investors return to work looking to hold gains until year-end

Investors return to work looking to hold gains until year-end

by Tim Paradis

NEW YORK (AP), Nov 24 _ Investors get back to work in the coming week following the Thanksgiving holiday and will be looking to see whether stocks can hold or perhaps extend their gains in the five remaining weeks of the year.

With the all-important holiday shopping season having begun in earnest last week investors will be looking to retailers for signs of how consumer spending is registering. Consumers account for about two-thirds of economic activity and therefore can hold considerable sway over corporate profits.

In the coming week, investors will likely pay attention to sales figures released by retailers, particularly data on same-store sales, an important measure of sales at stores open at least a year.

Last week, the markets were mixed; the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.51 percent and the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.02 percent, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 0.59 percent.

Investors are hoping that the economy cools slowly so corporate profits hold up and the stock market, which has showed robust gains in October and November, can maintain its momentum. A cooling economy could drive inflation lower and persuade the Federal Reserve to lower short-term interest rates. The central bank has left interest rates unchanged at its last three meetings, interrupting a string of 17 straight increases that began in 2004.

Wall Street has been poring over economic data as it arrives in an attempt to determine whether the economy can achieve a soft landing or whether it might tip into recession.

ECONOMIC DATA

The week begins slowly, with the Dallas Federal Reserve expected to release a report on regional manufacturing Monday.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department is expected to issue a report on durable goods orders, which offers a look at the manufacturing sector. The agency is also expected to release its report on sales of existing homes for October.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence report is also due Tuesday. The mood of consumers is particularly important in the final months of the year at it can affect how much people spend at the holidays.

The International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group, is expected to release a report on retail sales.

The Richmond Federal Reserve is also expected to report on regional manufacturing.

Wednesday brings the Commerce Department's preliminary reading on the third quarter's gross domestic product, which is the broadest measure of the economy.

The Commerce Department is also expected to issue a report on new home sales for October.

Thursday brings Commerce Department reports on personal income and spending. The Chicago purchasing managers' index is also due Thursday.

Weekly figures on jobless claims are expected from the Labor Department. In October, the nation's unemployment level fell to its lowest level in five years.

Then on Friday, the Commerce Department expects to weigh in again with figures on construction spending. The data are likely to draw investor attention as some on Wall Street have grown concerned that a slowdown in the housing sector could spill over into parts of the economy and hurt consumer spending.

To wrap up the week, the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing business index could provide further insight into whether the economy continues to expand. Wall Street expects a reading of 51.2; a reading above 50 indicates growth.

EARNINGS

Significant earnings reports aren't expected to arrive until Wednesday when Tiffany & Co. reports. The purveyor of luxury jewelry is expected to turn in a third-quarter profit of 16 cents per share. The stock, which has traded between $29.63 and $43.80 in the past 52 weeks, closed Friday at $37.32.

On Thursday, tax-preparer H&R Block Inc. is expected to report a fiscal second-quarter loss of 30 cents per share. The stock closed Friday at $23.90 and has traded between $19.80 and $26.14 in the past 52 weeks.

Also, ketchup and food maker H.J. Heinz Co. is seen as reporting a fiscal second-quarter profit of 60 cents per share. The shares closed Friday at $44.36 and have traded between $33.42 and $44.75 in the past 52 weeks.

Friday brings a report from Warner Music Group Corp., which Wall Street expects will earn less than a penny a share for its fiscal fourth quarter. The stock has traded between $17.19 and $31 in the past 52 weeks and ended Friday at $26.87.

 
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