Week Ahead: April Jobs Report and Car Sales

The U.S. unemployment rate is widely expected to stay put at 8.8% when the April labor report is released on Friday. Despite those broad expectations, investors are anxiously anticipating its release.

Economists are predicting the U.S. added just under 200,000 non-farm jobs in April, slightly less than the previous month. Nevertheless, the numbers appear to indicate that labor market continue to strengthen rather than weaken.

“We expect employment growth to ease to 185,000 in April from 216,000 in March. A slight uptick in initial unemployment insurance claims suggests that job creation has slowed slightly. We anticipate private job creation of 200,000, partly offset by a loss of 15,000 government jobs. We expect the unemployment rate to remain steady at 8.8%, after recent sharp declines,” IHS Global Insight economists Patrick Newport and Nigel Gault wrote in a report to clients.

Meanwhile, first-quarter earnings season continues in high gear with reports scheduled to arrive from bellwether companies in virtually every sector of the economy.

On Monday results are due from Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC), ADP (NYSE:ADP), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK), Delphi Energy (NYSE:DEE), Dole Food (NYSE:DOL), Sothebys (NYSE:BID), and Warner Music Group (NYSE:WMG).

Due Tuesday are Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM), Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), Hyatt Hotels (NYSE:H), Mastercard (NYSE:MA), and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE).

On Wednesday Allergan (NYSE:AGN), Anheuser Busch Inbev (NYSE:BUD), Kellogg (NYSE:K), Metlife (NYSE:MET), News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA), Siemens (NYSE:SIE), and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX).

Thursday is Airgas (NYSE:ARG), Cigna (NYSE:CI), CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS), Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT), Orbitz (NYSE:OWW), Priceline.com (NASDAQ:PCLN), Sara Lee (NYSE:SLE), Scripps Networks (NYSE:SNI), and Visa (NYSE:V).

Friday is Booz Allen Hamilton Holdings (NYSE:BAH) and the Washington Post Cos. (NYSE:WPO).

Each of the six major U.S. automakers will report April sales on Tuesday. Industry analyst Edmunds.com expects General Motors (NYSE:GM) to return to its once-perennial position as the biggest U.S. car seller. Ford (NYSE:F) outsold GM in March.

While car sales are expected to improve, sales of larger vehicles will likely fall because of the recent surge in gas prices due primarily to political unrest in oil producing countries across the Middle East.

A construction spending report due Monday is expected to be dismal.

“We expect another bleak report for construction in March, with spending declining 0.7%. Public construction fell for the fifth straight month in February. We are expecting another drop in March,” the economists at IHS Global predicted.

U.S. retailers will report same-store sales results for April on Thursday.