Investing.com - After a recent batch of disappointing U.S. economic data, the February jobs report is the main event for markets in the week ahead, as investors look for further hints on the strength of the economy.
This week is also peppered with a handful of appearances from Federal Reserve officials, including Chairman Jerome Powell.
In earnings, there are a number of big-name retailers, such as Target (NYSE:TGT), reporting results in what will be the last big week of the fourth-quarter earnings season.
Elsewhere, in Europe, markets are keeping an eye on the European Central Bank's monetary policy meeting for further guidance on when the central bank plans to start raising interest rates.
Meanwhile, in Asia, China is slated to release what will be closely watched monthly trade figures. Investors will study the data to see if the ongoing trade conflict with the U.S. had any impact on exports and imports in February.
Ahead of the coming week, Investing.com has compiled a list of the five biggest events on the economic calendar that are most likely to affect the markets.
1. U.S. Jobs Report
The U.S. Labor Department will release the nonfarm payrolls report for February at 8:30AM ET (13:30 GMT) on Friday.
The consensus forecast is that the data will show jobs growth of 180,000, after adding 304,000 positions in January, while the unemployment rate is seen dipping to 3.9% from 4.0%.
However, most of the focus will likely be on average hourly earnings figures, which are expected to rise 3.3% from a year earlier, a tad quicker than the 3.2% increase reported in January.
This week's calendar also features the ISM survey on service sector activity, as well as reports on new home sales, building permits, and construction spending.
A batch of underwhelming economic data, including retail sales and manufacturing activity, have underscored expectations for weaker growth momentum in the first quarter.
2. Fed Speakers
A number of Fed speeches will get market attention in the week ahead, as traders watch for further clues on interest rates.
Topping the agenda will be remarks from Fed Chair Jerome Powell, who will be speaking Friday about monetary policy normalization at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research Economic Summit, in California, at 8:00PM ET.
Powell last week repeated the central bank’s recent mantra of pledging patience in the face of conflicting economic signals and subdued inflation.
Speeches from New York Fed President John Williams (NYSE:WMB), Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, and Fed Governor Lael Brainard will also be in focus.
The Fed also releases its Beige Book, a collection of economic anecdotes from each of the central bank’s 12 districts, on Wednesday.
After the Fed hiked rates four times in 2018, investors now expect the U.S. central bank to halt its monetary tightening policy this year as risks to the economy mount.
3. Earnings Season Winds Down
The fourth-quarter earnings season has all but wound down, however results are expected from a number of retailers in the week ahead, with most of the focus falling on Target, which reports Tuesday morning.
Other notable retailers reporting this week include Kohl's (NYSE:KSS), Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN), Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST), Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF), American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO), Burlington Stores (NYSE:BURL), BJ's Wholesale Club (NYSE:BJ), Costco (NASDAQ:COST), Kroger (NYSE:KR), and Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR).
Earnings from Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) are also on the agenda.
4. European Central Bank Policy Meeting
Faced with a serious slowdown in euro zone economic growth, the ECB is all but certain to keep interest rates at their current record low levels at the conclusion of its monetary policy meeting at 12:45 GMT (7:45AM ET) on Thursday.
President Mario Draghi will hold a closely-watched press conference 45 minutes after the rate announcement as investors seek further clues on when the central bank plans to start hiking borrowing costs.
The ECB will also release updated growth forecasts and economic projections.
After ending its asset-purchase program in December, markets expected the ECB would follow with a rate rise by the fourth quarter of 2019. But a barrage of weak data suggesting growth has slowed prompted traders to push back expectations for a rate hike to the second half of next year.
Facing the slowdown and persistent funding strains, banks have called on the ECB to relaunch its Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operation (TLTROs).
5. China Trade Figures
China is to release February trade figures on Friday morning.
The report is expected to show that the country’s trade surplus shrank to $25.5 billion last month from $39.2 billion.
Exports are forecast to have fallen 4.5% from a year earlier, while imports are expected to decline 1.4%.
Recent data has shown that China's economy is still losing steam, after growth last year cooled to a near 30-year low, highlighting the fallout from the ongoing U.S.-China trade dispute.
-- Reuters contributed to this report