US Stocks End Short Session Mixed Ahead of Jobs Week

New York (Nov 27)  The turkey has been trussed, roasted and eaten and now investors are turning their attention to the labor market in the coming week.

The November jobs report, due next Friday, is the key release of the week and the most important piece of data between now and when the Federal Reserve meets on Dec. 15. Economists expect 185,000 jobs to have been added to U.S. nonfarm payrolls over the past month.

A stronger number will do little to alter expectations with the chances of a rate hike in December currently at more than 70%. But if the November jobs report turns out to be a turkey, the Fed's thinking will be anyone's guess.

The central bank has strongly suggested in recent weeks that a hike will come sooner than later, even if it continues to depend upon economic data. Fed Chair Janet Yellen will speak on Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to reiterate the Fed's previous party line that the economy continues to prove and warrants a move off of crises-level rates.

Nerves over the coming week kept any gains to a minimum on Friday. Lower volume made for choppier trading, though moves kept in a narrow range. The S&P 500 was up 0.06%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.07%, and Nasdaq futures gained 0.22%. Stock markets closed at 1 p.m. on Friday.

Crude oil slid ahead of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' meeting in the coming week. Investors hope OPEC will decide to cut output in an effort to drive up prices. The group's members have held production near record highs even as prices slumped in a strategic move to hold onto market share. West Texas Intermediate crude was down 2.5% to $41.96 a barrel on Friday.

Major oilers including Exxon Mobil (XOM - Get Report) , Chevron (CVX - Get Report) , Schlumberger (SLB - Get Report) and ConocoPhillips (COP - Get Report) were all lower on Friday, while the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) fell 0.7%.

Disney (DIS) shares fell 3%, weighing heavily on the Dow, after the world's largest entertainment company disclosed that sports channel ESPN had lost 7 million subscribers over the past two years. ESPN had 92 million subscribers as of the end of the fiscal year in October, down from 95 million a year earlier.

Retailers were on watch on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Early checks by Adobe suggest online sales have offered 24% deeper discounts than a year earlier to move more inventory.

Around 30 million people are expected to have shopped on Thanksgiving, plus 99.7 million on Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation. The trade group estimates about 135.8 million people will be shopping during the four-day weekend, compared with 133.7 million last year. Overall sales for November and December are forecast to rise 3.7% to $630.5 billion.

Target (TGT) has already said that its results have been better than expected, though did not disclose any solid sales numbers. The retailer began its promotions last Sunday with discounts of around 10% on electronics.

China's Shanghai Composite closed 5.5% lower on Friday in its biggest daily drop since Aug. 18. Chinese shares were under pressure on news some of the country's largest brokerage firms would be investigated by regulators. Citic Securities and Guosen Securities said they were currently under investigation by the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

Source: TheStreet