Upcoming Dow Storylines to Watch For

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) returned from its one-day investing hiatus hungover and overwhelmed. After a sluggish start to the week, global news overwhelmed markets on Thursday, and the upcoming days promise more of the same. Look for the same big storylines:

Do workers have jobs?
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor released the initial claims report, which traced the number of filings for state jobless benefits. The initial number outshone expectations, but the global stimulus news overshadowed the report.

Don't expect an overshadowing repeat today. The U.S. Department of Labor will release two key employment statistics reports in the next few hours. The first measure, the nonfarm payroll, will look at employment from a business standpoint, analyzing payrolls and the average workweek to see how well the workforce is currently employed. The household survey will observe individual households and generate the official unemployment rate. Here's a spoiler: It will be pretty bad (expectations right now are for an 8.2% rate), and the market will probably drop at least a bit after its release.

The market could fall especially hard if the number crushes expectations, but expect enormous market optimism if it dips to less than 8% for the first time in 40 months. Of course, while the employment news does reflect the current state of the economy, the labor number should only keep investors on further alert, especially if it meets expectations.

Europe, Europe, Europe
Does this headline seem familiar? Our friends across the pond returned to the markets with a bang on Thursday. The European Central Bank and Britain both enacted stimulus measures, but investors reacted pessimistically, worried that the continent is worse than many originally thought. No big announcements await today, but investors' confidence in Europe will continue to factor into broader market trends both today and in the upcoming weeks.

Earnings reports: windows into the soul
Dow second-quarter earnings reports will begin next week, and they should factor heavily in the Dow's day-to-day activity. Alcoa (NYS: AA) and JPMorgan (NYS: JPM) will release their reports next week, and both carry plenty of intrigue. Alcoa accounts for only a fraction of the Dow average, but it represents part of the currently unpredictable manufacturing sector. Its report could provide some insight into how that industry looks.

JPMorgan continues to dominate headlines for all the wrong reasons, including Tuesday's news that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is probing the banking giant over potential power-market manipulation. While its report may not fully represent all of its issues this quarter, analysts expect an EPS of $0.79, compared with its 2011 Q2 EPS of $1.27. On a broader level, the company's finances provide a glimpse into the banking industry as a whole -- perhaps the best overall indicator of the global economy.

More Dow companies are set to release their earnings reports soon, and the rush of economic data means it's important to stay alert and up to date on all the latest news and analysis. Be sure to add all of these companies to your free My Watchlist tool to stay in the know. To get started, click the links below:

At the time thisarticle was published Will Chavey owns no shares of the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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