US jobs data gives snapshot of economy - The week ahead on Wall St

INVESTORS will get a fresh snapshot of the state of the US economy at the start of 2015 on Friday, when figures for nonfarm payrolls, the unemployment rate and wholesale inventories are announced.

The unemployment rate for December is likely to remain at 5.8 per cent, according to analysts, while weekly jobless claims for January, released on Thursday, are forecast to be 292,000, showing a slight improvement from the 298,000 claims in December.

Economists predict the US added 240,000 jobs after 321,000 in November – finishing the year with its strongest rate.

A separate raft of figures are due on Wednesday, when balance of payments data, crude oil inventories and MBA mortgage applications numbers are released.

Analysts expect a trade deficit of $41bn for November, a slight improvement from the previous deficit of $43bn.

The minutes of the December meeting of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) are also due for release and are likely to lead to more discussion about how much stimulus the US requires and when the Fed is likely to raise rates.

US factory and goods orders numbers will be released tomorrow. Analysts expect a 0.7 per cent overall rise for November, reversing the October decline.

US car sales figures are due to be released today for December. General Motors and Ford shares may be influenced by the figures, which are expected to be about 10 per cent higher than a year earlier.