US stocks stumbled this week as investors focused on Spain’s financial woes, but next week’s jobs report and the first presidential debate should bring attention back home.
Over the past five sessions, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.05 percent, finishing on Friday at 13,437.13 points.
The tech-rich NASDAQ gave up 2 percent at 3,116.23 points.
The Standard & Poor’s 500, a broad measure of the markets, shed 1.33 percent at 1,440.67 points.
“Data this week was for the most part disappointing and gave little indication of the economy escaping its slow-growth trajectory any time soon,” Wells Fargo Securities analysts said.
While traders took the last trading day of the month and the third quarter to rebalance their portfolios and book profits, worries about the eurozone’s public debt crisis and, in particular Spain, cast a dark cloud over the markets.
Spain’s announcement on Thursday of an austerity budget for next year pushed the indices into the only positive territory of the week.
However, concerns about the credit rating of the fourth-largest eurozone economy overhung sentiment on Friday after Spain reported bank stress test results.
Moody’s rating agency said in June its review of Spain for a credit downgrade to junk status would likely “continue through the end of September.”
With the euphoria from the US Federal Reserve’s quantitative-easing program long faded and questions rising about its effectiveness in stimulating growth in the tepid economy, investors will be focusing on the central bank’s policy meeting minutes.
Due on Wednesday, investors are expected to pore over the Federal Open Market Committee minutes of the Sept. 12 to 13 meeting that yielded limitless bond purchases of US$40 billion a month to prop up the economy.
“The minutes could provide valuable insight into the Fed’s decision to make its easing strategy open-ended instead of incremental, and to keep it in place until an improved jobs market outlook is achieved,” economists Nigel Gault and Paul Edelstein at IHS Global Insight said.
On Wednesday night, US President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney will square off for the first of three televised debates in a presidential election dominated by voters’ economic worries.
Next week is chock-full of economic data, beginning with the Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers index for manufacturing tomorrow, followed by its PMI reading on services on Wednesday.
Automakers report US sales for this month on Tuesday.
Payrolls firm ADP releases employment figures on Wednesday and the government gives its weekly report on initial unemployment claims on Thursday, a steady drumbeat of jobs news ahead of the keenly awaited jobs report on Friday.
The jobs report, the second to last before the Nov. 6 election, is expected to show unemployment held unchanged from July’s 8.1 percent rate and job growth rose to a still-weak 120,000 from a paltry 96,000.