New year begins, jobless claims and manufacturing data: 3 things to watch for on Thursday

Finance

Trader Peter Tuchman reacts as the final day of trading for the year draws to a close at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 29, 2017.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

Here’s what you need to know about Thursday before you hit the door for New Year’s Eve.

New year begins

The U.S. stock market had one of its best runs in 2019, and the chance for a follow-up begins on Thursday when markets re-open.

The new year, however, may get off to a bumpy start. Tax-related selling and profit taking could cause a pullback in the early days of 2020, analysts say. And the outlook for the year is modest. The average price target for the S&P 500 among major market strategists is 3,330. This would be an increase of more than 3% for the year.

The most bullish strategist John Stoltzfus of Oppenheimer, projects the index will reach 3,500. That would be a jump of more than 8%.

The trade war with China is likely to be one of the major market stories in 2020. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday that he will sign phase one of the trade deal with China on Jan. 15 and then go to Beijing at a later date as part of the phase two negotiations.

Jobless claims

The Labor Department starts off the new year with initial jobless claims data for the final full week of December.

Economists polled by Dow Jones expect the number to be 225,000. This would be a slight increase from the previous week, when there were 222,000 new claims.

The headline numbers for the labor market were strong in 2019, with the main unemployment rate being below 4% every month since January. Wage growth, however, was more tepid.

The states with the biggest increases in initial claims for the last report were West Virginia, Illinois and North Dakota.

Manufacturing data

The latest manufacturing purchasing index from IHS Markit is also slated for a Thursday release. The flash manufacturing reading, which was released in the middle of December and is often used an estimate for the full month, came in at 52.5.

The previous full-month reading for the index was 52.6, with November notching the highest new order growth since January.

Last month’s report also showed increasing demand from overseas and rising backlogs.

In the index, readings above 50 represent expansion in the sector, and readings below 50 represent contraction. The data from Markit has differed recently from a similar survey by the Institute for Supply Management, with the ISM’s index coming in below 50 for four straight months. The ISM report for December will be released later in the week.

Major events (all times Eastern)

8:30 a.m. Initial claims

9:45 a.m. Manufacturing PMI

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