Although the U.S. economy has added jobs in recent months, the unemployment rate remains uncomfortably high at 9.8%. The rate for December is due out on Friday, and the consensus is for it to drop to 9.7%. However, no one seems to expect significant improvement until well into the new year.
Other economic data on this week's schedule to watch for:
Monday:ISM Manufacturing Index, construction spending and auto sales data.
Tuesday: Factory orders, weekly chain-store sales, release of the minutes of the Fed's Dec. 14 meeting.
Thursday: Last week's initial jobless claims, consumer credit outstanding, monthly chain-store sales.
Friday: Fed Chairman Bernanke testifies before Senate budget committee
The new earnings season doesn't get started for another week, but who do analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect to start out the new year with strong quarterly reports? Mosaic (MOS), Family Dollar (FDO) and Constellation Brands (STZ), among a few others.
During its fiscal second quarter, Minnesota-based crop nutrient producer Mosaic reported strong demand due to higher agricultural commodity prices and sold assets. Analysts forecast that earnings for the period will come in at 91 cents per share, a 64.8% increase from the same period of last year. Mosaic also is expected to post revenue of $2.4 billion for the three months that ended in November, 42.5% more than a year earlier.
Analysts anticipate that Family Dollar, the nation's No. 2 dollar-store chain, will report Wednesday that fiscal first-quarter earnings grew 19.7% year over year to 61 cents per share. Family Dollar saw strong sales and bought back shares during the three months that ended in November, and revenue for that period is estimated to total $1.9 billion, up 8.8% from the year-ago quarter.
During the three months that ended in November, Constellation Brands also bought back shares, as well as expanded a solar energy initiative. The wine and spirits maker is expected to post fiscal third-quarter earnings of 62 cents per share. That's up from a year-ago profit of 54 cents per share. Also, analysts predict that revenue increased marginally to $992.8 million.