Investors will face a challenge next week maintaining a month-long rally even as the U.S. unemployment rate rises as expected when the September jobs figure is released on Friday.

The unemployment rate is expected to rise to 9.7% from 9.6% in August, according to The rate has been rising as more and more people re-enter the labor market seeking work. 

Meanwhile, the third-quarter reporting season unofficially kicks off Thursday, when aluminum giant Alcoa Inc. (NYSE:AA) posts results. Alcoa is expected to report improved results after the aluminum producer swung to a profit in the second quarter as demand picked up in almost every one of its markets.

Major U.S. retailers will report September same-stores sales Thursday. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the industry to report a 2% increase from a year ago, with discount and department store retailers expected to post the strongest growth.

A handful of beverage and food companies -- including Diamond Foods Inc.  (NASDAQ:DMND), PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE:PEP), Ruby Tuesday Inc. (NYSE:RT) and Yum Brands Inc. (NYSE:YUM) -- are set to report quarterly results next week, with Wall Street expecting all four to report improved results from a year ago.

The Bank of Japan is expected to take more monetary easing steps at its two-day policy board meeting starting Monday, according to a Dow Jones Newswires poll. The move would come as the central bank's own business sentiment survey reveals deepening concerns about the outlook for the corporate sector and the yen's uptrend shows no signs of abating.

The verdict in the criminal trial of former Societe Generale SA trader Jerome Kerviel is expected Tuesday in Paris. Kerviel's actions allegedly led to a loss of EUR4.9 billion in January 2008. During the trial this past summer, prosecutors said he should be imprisoned for four years and fined for crimes that led to the biggest single trading loss in history.

Nasdaq OMX (NASDAQ: NDAQ) plans to introduce a new "price improvement" mechanism for options orders sent to its PHLX options exchange beginning Monday.

 Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) next week will begin shipping bottles of  grape-flavored children's liquid Tylenol, which have been off the market for months due to a recall.

China hopes a U.N. climate conference it hosts next week can help narrow differences on the issue. China will host a final preparatory meeting in the northern city of Tianjin ahead of U.N. talks opening in November in Cancun in Mexico, with major carbon emitters including the U.S. and China far apart on the issue.

The Nobel prizes will be announced next week, starting with the one in physiology or medicine on Monday, followed by physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday, and economic sciences on Oct. 11.