Investors will scrutinise the latest US jobs data this week, with private payrolls, weekly jobless claims and the government's official report at the end of a holiday-shortened week.
The ADP employment report is up first, on Wednesday, followed by weekly jobless claims on Thursday, and the government's nonfarm payrolls report on Friday, a day when financial markets are closed for the Good Friday holiday.
Last Friday, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen made it clear that at least in her mind as of now, US interest rates are going to start rising soon.
"With continued improvement in economic conditions, an increase in the target range for that rate may well be warranted later this year," Yellen said in a speech in San Francisco.
Yellen pointed to payroll gains which have averaged 275,000 per month over the past year, saying those were "well above the pace needed to sustain further declines in the unemployment rate."
"Of course, we still have some way to go to reach our maximum employment goal," Yellen added. "The unemployment rate has not yet declined to the 5.0 to 5.2 per cent range that most FOMC participants now consider to be normal in the longer run."
Yellen, who also said that the path to higher rates would be both gradual and varying, is scheduled to speak on Thursday in Washington
Friday's jobs report is expected to show US companies added 242,000 jobs in March, and that the unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.
"Central banks still provide us with the biggest triggers," Heinz-Gerd Sonnenschein, a strategist at Deutsche Postbank in Bonn, Germany, told Bloomberg. "Everybody is waiting to see what will happen when the Fed acts. US data has been weaker than many had hoped. With so many questions, you wonder what will make people move into the market, given the S&P has given investors very little this year."
Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 2.3 per cent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 2.2 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index slid 2.7 per cent.
Thusfar in 2015, the Dow has slipped 0.05 per cent, while the S&P 500 advanced 0.6 per cent, and the Nasdaq has added 3.6 per cent. The S&P 500's year-to-date increase makes it one of the worst performers among developed-nation stock markets, according to Bloomberg.
Even so, Wall Street posted gains on Friday, in part helped by a Wall Street Journal report that Intel was in talks to buy competitor Altera, reminding investors that companies still see value in the market. Shares of Intel jumped 6.4 per cent, while those of Altera closed 28.4 per cent higher.
"We've seen a lot of M&A news recently and it's helping the market," Stephen Massocca, chief investment officer at Wedbush Equity Management in San Francisco, told Reuters. "There is definitely an M&A cycle going on, so that is a good thing."
Other economic reports due this week include personal income and outlays, pending home sales index, and Dallas Fed manufacturing survey, due today; S&P Case-Shiller home price index, Chicago PMI, and consumer confidence, due Tuesday; PMI and ISM manufacturing indices, and construction spending, due Wednesday; and international trade, and factory orders, due Thursday.
And there is also a slew of talks by US policy makers including Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer today; Kansas City Fed President Esther George, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester on Tuesday; and Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, and San Francisco Fed President John Williams on Wednesday; and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota, and St Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard on Friday.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index fell 2.1 per cent last week, while the UK's FTSE 100 Index retreated 2.4 per cent.
The latest data released this week include various euro-zone confidence data, and Germany's consumer price index, due today; euro-zone unemployment and CPI, due Tuesday; and euro-zone manufacturing, due Wednesday.
Here too, companies are finding value. On Saturday, Switzerland's Dufry agreed to buy a majority stake in Italy's World Duty Free in a 1.3 billion-euro deal.