Investors focus on jobs, growth and Europe

(MoneyWatch) Eat plenty at your Memorial Day BBQ, because you're going to need your energy in the holiday-shortened week ahead. The highlight will be the all-important May employment report. In the first four months of the year, monthly job creation averaged 200,000. That number sounds good, until you realize that there are really two numbers: January - February, which saw an average of 267,000 jobs created and March - April, where the average was just 135,000. The consensus for May is 150,000 jobs created and the unemployment rate will remain at 8.1 percent.

While three years ago, having any job gains would have been welcome, with the recovery in progress, the downward trend is troublesome. The May report will help determine whether the springtime dip in job creation was temporary, or indicative of a more worrisome trend. Either way, another group of college graduates will enter a difficult work force. According to recent research from Rutgers University, only 51 percent of recent graduates (classes of 2009-2011) were employed full time and the median starting salary for these young workers has dropped 10 percent from before the recession, to $27,000. This may lead some to think, "Why go to college?" The answer is simple: Not attending college will hurt your job prospects more. The unemployment rate for college graduates may be higher than it was before the recession, but it is still about half the national average. Bottom line: Don't give up on college yet.

After blaming the weather for the slowdown in job growth, a more boring thesis is gaining popularity: Global growth is slowing down. In the first quarter, the U.S. economy grew at an inflation-adjusted annual rate of 2.2 percent, down from the fourth quarter's 3 percent rate, but up from the total 2011 rate of 1.7 percent. This week, the government will release the second estimate of U.S. growth, which is expected to match the original estimate.

In China, a report of declining manufacturing activity has prompted many to wonder whether the world's engine of growth is sputtering amid a stalling real estate market. A similar downshift is playing out across many parts of the world, including Brazil, India and South Africa. Last week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reduced estimates for 2012 global growth.

And then there's the euro zone, where business activity plunged at the steepest rate in almost three years. It's hard to mull up anything but doom about Europe, as it teeters on the edge of disaster. The latest example of European slow-motion crisis was seen Friday, when Spain pumped 19 billion euros into its third largest bank to soothe worried depositors and to try to prevent a bank run, jog or walk. It's hard to keep an economy afloat amid these kinds of stresses. In its bi-annual global economic outlook, the OECD said the euro zone would shrink 0.1 per cent in 2012 and grow a mere 0.9 per cent in 2013, unless everything falls apart, in which case all bets are off.

The next four weeks leading up to the second Greek elections (mark your calendar for June 17!) will likely feel like an eternity, highlighted by rumors, dueling polls and market volatility. But for this week, investors brushed aside concerns and stock indexes gained ground.

-- DJIA: 12,454, up 0.7% on week, up 1.9% on year

-- S&P 500: 1,317, up1.7% on week, up 4.8% on year

-- NASDAQ: 2,837, 2.1%, up 8.9% on year

-- June Crude Oil: $90.86, down 1% on week

-- June Gold: $1568.90, down 1.4% on the week

-- AAA National Average Price for Gallon of Regular Gas: $3.65

THE WEEK AHEAD:

Mon 5/28: US MARKETS CLOSED FOR MEMORIAL DAY

Tue 5/29:

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

10:00 Consumer Confidence

10:30 Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey

Weds 5/30:

7:00 MBA mortgage purchase applications index

7:30 Challenger Job Cut Report

10:00 Pending Home Sales

Thurs 5/31:

Chain Store Sales

CFTC holds forum on the Volcker Rule

8:15 ADP Employment report

8:30 Weekly jobless claims

8:30 Q1 GDP (2nd estimate)

8:30 Corporate Profits

9:45 Chicago PMI

Fri 6/1:

Motor Vehicle Sales

China PMI for April

8:30 May Employment report

8:30 Personal Income and Spending

10:00 ISM Manufacturing Index

10:00 Construction Spending