Jobs Numbers Knock Stocks Off Course

Investors want to know if the U.S. economic recovery is alive and well, or if it has stalled out.

A surprisingly strong report on national manufacturing yesterday lifted the Dow Industrials to their highest level since December of 2007. The ISM survey for April registered a reading of 54.8, up from 53.4 in March and the strongest reading since June.

While the rally faded towards the close Tuesday, it’s fading further this Wednesday morning, with stock futures set to open modestly lower.

Investors are focusing on fresh data on the jobs front, with ADP's private-sector data showing that just 119,000 jobs were created in April, far fewer than the 177,000 expected. Factory orders for March, meanwhile, are expected to slip 1.6%.

The big government jobs report for April comes Friday morning and economists expect that 165,000 jobs were created last month, with the unemployment rate staying at 8.2%.

Facebook will reportedly go public on May 18, according to The Wall Street Journal. Facebook is reportedly set to start its IPO “roadshow” with prospective institutional investors on Monday, and the company is looking to raise $5 billion for a market valuation of $100 billion.  The stock will trade on Nasdaq under the symbol “FB.”

As auto sales rev up, so do stick shifts. says that manual transmissions were in 6.5% of new cars sold in the first quarter, the highest level since 2006. While manual transmissions are not necessarily more fuel efficient, they’re often cheaper.

Ford (NYSE:F) says demand for manuals in its redesigned Focus compact is running close to 10%.

Meanwhile, Ford said yesterday that sales fell 5% in April. Sales of the Fiesta subcompact unexpectedly dropped 44% from last April, a puzzling trend when gas prices remain high. The Ford Focus is likely biting into some Fiesta sales.