Here comes the January jobs report!

Is it that time of the month again? Yup, it's time to prepare for the January jobs report. You probably don't remember, but 2011 ended on a high note for jobs. The December jobs report showed that 200,000 new jobs were created and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent, the lowest rate since February 2009. For the year, 1.6 million non-farm jobs were created (1.9 million, less 280,000 government jobs lost).

Expectations for January are for 135,000 new jobs created in the first month of the year, which is nice, but it's not enough to put a dent in the unemployment rate, nor will it get 13.1 million Americans back to work any time soon. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 8.5 percent. (Geek alert: This monthly release will also introduce revisions to previous reports.)

The big problem is that U.S. economic growth is good, but not great. The government reported that GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.8 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011, which is better than any of the previous 5 quarters, but that's a pretty low bar to step over. The average historical growth rate for the U.S. economy over the last 60 years has been about 3.2 percent, and over the last couple of decades it has dropped to approximately 2.5 percent.

The more distressing news is that economists are saying we need to brace for lower first quarter growth, because the trend of less government spending (federal, state and local) is likely to continue, while re-stocking of inventories will not. Two to two and a half percent GDP, as many are predicting, is just not fast enough to significantly fill the massive jobs hole created by the Great Recession. We're moving in the right direction, but just not fast enough.

After flirting with their highest post-crisis levels, stocks ended the week mixed. Still, the mood is upbeat in 2012 (the Michigan consumer sentiment index rose to an 11-month high in January), as investors brush aside so-so earnings (Apple notwithstanding), the struggling housing market and concerns about the European debt crisis.

-- DJIA: 12,660, down 0.5% on week, up 3.6% on year (on pace for 4th-straight monthly gain and biggest monthly rise since October)

-- S&P 500: 1,316, up 0.07% on week, up 4.7% on year (4th straight weekly gain, up 7 out of last 9 weeks)

-- NASDAQ: 2,816, up 1.1% on week, up 8.1% on year (fourth straight weekly gain, up 7 out of last 9 weeks)

-- March Crude Oil: $99.56, up 1.25% on week

-- April Gold: $1,735.40, up 4% on the week (up 10.60% over the last four weeks)

-- AAA National Average Price for Gallon of Regular Gas: $3.41

FACTOIDS OF THE WEEK: The January Effect (source: WSJ Market Data Group)

"As goes January, so goes the year" is the old saying, meaning that if stocks trade higher in January, they will follow through and end the year higher. Of course, other months also have predictive powers (April and November possess even stronger "forecasting" abilities than January), but it's not as much fun as thinking that the first month of the year is the arbiter of the full year. Here's some fun, cherry-picking of the stats:

-- In the DJIA's history, the full year has matched the direction of January's performance in 85 of 114 years, or 75% of the time.

-- On years when the DJIA ended the month of January with a gain, it finished the full year higher 82% of the time.

-- Since 1970, the DJIA finished the full year higher 92% of the time

-- The best January: 1976, a gain of 14.41%

-- The worst January: 2009, a loss of 8.84%


Mon 1/30:

Gannett, Plum Creek, McKesson

8:30 Personal Income and Spending

EU leaders summit in Brussels

Tues 1/31:

Pfizer, US Steel, Exxon Mobil, Amazon, Mattel, UPS

9:00 S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index

9:45 Chicago PMI

10:00 Consumer Confidence

Weds 2/1:

Ford Motor, Allstate

Motor Vehicle Sales

Eurozone PMI for January

7:00 Weekly mortgage apps

7:45 ADP Private Employment Index

10:00 ISM Manufacturing Index

10:00 Construction Spending

Thurs 2/2:

Merck, MasterCard, International Paper, Sunoco, Dow Chemical, Kellogg, Kohl's

Chain Store Sales

8:30 Jobless claims

8:30 Productivity and Costs

Fri 2/3:

Clorox, Estee Lauder, Weyerhaeuser

8:30 Employment Report

10:00 Factory Orders

10:00 ISM Non-Manufacturing index

Feeling bad about the economy? That's good