Bulls may extend rally if US data signals stability

Bulls may get more room to run this week on the anniversary of the March 2009 lows – if US stock investors see more signs of stability after Friday's rally on smaller-than-expected job losses.

The catalysts could be February retail sales and March consumer sentiment. On Friday, stocks jumped after US Labour Department data showed employers cut fewer jobs than expected in February, which enhanced the perception that the job market may be on the verge of recovery. The Nasdaq marked its highest close in 18 months. Both the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard Poor's 500 Index closed at six-week highs.

Tuesday will mark the first anniversary of the stock market's slide to 12-year closing lows on March 9, 2009. Since then, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index has climbed nearly 70 per cent.

Much of the stock market's gain has been driven by stronger-than-expected economic data and earnings, which have pointed to a recovery.

But investors have been eager to see more robust signs of strength, especially in the nation's job market.

"Jobs are absolutely key," said Bob Doll, chief equity strategist for BlackRock, one of the world's largest asset managers with about $3.35 trillion (Dh12.29trn) in assets under management.

"The manufacturing sector is improving. The US consumer, at least in soft goods, is spending some money, inflation remains contained, housing is bottoming, and the next thing investors need to see is some job growth."

Unemployment near 10 per cent has, in part, held back consumer spending, economists have said.

Next Friday brings the Commerce Department's monthly retail sales data for February along with the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary reading on March consumer sentiment.

 

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