Week Ahead: A Plan for Europe?

Investors will anxiously await a Friday deadline of sorts for European leaders to cobble together a solution to the long-running euro-zone debt crisis.

At a summit in Brussels, Europe’s top fiscal policy makers are scheduled to discuss a unified plan that would impose greater fiscal discipline on countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain, all of which are currently crushed by debt.

If a viable plan can be agreed on, it is widely believed that the European Central Bank will respond in kind with a plan of its own to purchase billions of euros in government bonds from these debt-addled nations.

The ECB has been reluctant to do so for fear that these same countries will backtrack on austerity measures if the ECB steps in too soon in an effort to avert a crisis. It’s a very high-stakes game of chicken, and the clock may be running out on the single-currency euro.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is scheduled to fly to Europe to meet with many of the major players ahead of the Friday summit.

A widely-watched gauge of consumer sentiment, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index, is due out Friday. Consumer sentiment has been inching higher in recent months but remains at recessionary levels. Friday’s jobs reports, which saw the unemployment rate fall to 8.6%, the lowest level in two years, could play a role, although employment figures were strongly impacted by a contracting labor market, which means a lot of Americans have simply given up looking for work.

The October trade balance figure will be released by the Commerce Department on Thursday, and third quarter earnings season winds down with the release next week of Costco’s (NASDAQ:COST) and Men’s Wearhouse's (NYSE:MW) quarterly reports.

Online game maker Zynga said Friday it expects to price its initial public offering in a range of $8.50 to $10 and plans to sell 100 million shares in a deal that will hit the markets on Dec. 16. The company starts its roadshow for investors on Monday.

Demand for deals connected in any way to online social media have surged this year following their debuts. LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) and Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) come to mind, but while LinkedIn’s shares have held their ground, Groupon’s shares have since fallen below their IPO price of $20 a share.