The latest US labour market data will take centre stage in the coming days, while central bank meetings in Europe, the UK and Japan and any developments regarding potential military action against Syria will play out in the background.
On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average weakened 0.21 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index slid 0.32 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.84 percent. For the week, the Dow shed 1.3 percent, the S&P 500 declined 1.8 percent, while the Nasdaq fell 1.9 percent.
For the month of August, the Dow gave up 4.4 percent, while the S&P 500 retreated 3.1 percent. September has traditionally been the worst month for stocks, according to Reuters, with an average 0.6 percent decline in the S&P 500 index over the past 62 years, although it rose 2.4 percent last September.
US markets are closed today for the Labor Day holiday.
The key economic data released this week include the ADP Employment Report and weekly jobless claims, both due Thursday, followed by the government's payrolls report on Friday.
US employers likely hired 180,000 workers in August, up from 162,000 in July, while the jobless rate likely held steady at 7.4 percent, according to a Reuters poll.
The pace of recovery in the labour market is a crucial benchmark for Fed policy makers, who will next meet on September 17-18, in their assessment of the future of their bond-buying program. The Fed currently is buying bonds at a pace of US$85 billion a month.
"From a real economy perspective, QE3 has done very little. From a financial markets perspective, it has had a major influence," Mike O'Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut, told Reuters. "If it is really not helping the real economy beyond pushing financial assets higher, there is no point in continuing the risk of increasing the balance sheet."
Several Fed officials are scheduled to speak in the coming days. On Wednesday, San Francisco Fed President John Williams will talk about the economy and monetary policy in Portland, Oregon, while Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota will speak at a town hall forum in La Crosse, Wisconsin the same day.
Kocherlakota is scheduled to speak again on Thursday, answering questions at an economic indicator breakfast in in La Crosse. On Friday Chicago Fed President Charles Evans will give a speech at the AgFirst Farm Credit Summit in Greenville, South Carolina, and Kansas City Fed President Esther George will speak on the economy to business leaders in Omaha, Nebraska.
Other US economic reports due this week include the PMI manufacturing index, ISM manufacturing index, and construction spending, all out on Tuesday, followed by international trade on Wednesday, and factory orders, productivity and costs as well as the ISM non-manufacturing index on Thursday.
The Fed also releases its Beige Book on Wednesday.
Meetings of the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan will be watched for further clues on the outlook for their respective stimulus efforts.
A Reuters survey of 60 economists showed the ECB is expected to keep both its main refinancing and deposit rates, at 0.5 percent and zero respectively, on hold until at least 2015.
ECB policy makers are scheduled to debate a move to release minutes of their policy gatherings soon after each meeting, as other major central banks do. Under current ECB policy, meeting minutes are withheld for three decades.
Meanwhile, the BOE will keep its bond-buying program at 375 billion pounds (US$580 billion), according to all 37 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Officials will also hold the key rate at a record low of 0.5 percent, a separate survey showed.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index fell 2.4 percent last week, while Germany's DAX shed 3.7 percent in the past five days.
The latest PMI manufacturing data for the euro zone are due on Monday, followed by producer price index data on Tuesday, and PMI services on Wednesday.
Reports on Germany's trade balance and industrial production are due on Friday.