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Stocks to watch: Brace for U.S. jobs numbers, auto sales

In this March 7, 2012, file photo shows job seekers standing line during the Career Expo job fair, in Portland, Ore. Employers pulled back sharply on hiring last month, a reminder that the U.S. economy may not be growing fast enough to sustain robust job growth. The unemployment rate dipped, but mostly because more Americans stopped looking for work. The Labor Department says the economy added 120,000 jobs in March, down from more than 200,000 in each of the previous three months.

Rick Bowmer/Rick Bowmer for The Associated Press

Friday should start off with a bang for investors, as the U.S. releases its much-anticipated jobs report for May, while on the corporate front the big automakers will release their latest sales data.

Non-farm job gains in April were a disappointing 115,000, following a rise of 154,000 in March and 259,000 in February. The consensus is for payrolls to add 150,000 jobs, but economists don't seem certain. Predictions range between gains of 95,000 to 206,000, according to Bloomberg. The unemployment rate is forecast to hold steady at 8.1 per cent.

The EU will also be releasing its jobs reports.

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Also due out at 8:30 a.m. ET is U.S. personal income and spending in April. Economists expect increases of 0.3 per cent in each. U.S. manufacturing and construction data will also be released later in the morning. China will also reveal its manufacturing numbers in the overnight hours.

On this side of the border, Statistics Canada reports on the gross domestic product in the first quarter. It's forecast to grow at a 1.8 per cent clip.

The vehicle sales data for May will be closely watched as an indicator for both the U.S. economy and how the automakers are holding up. Sales of total light motor vehicles were steady in April compared to March. They are forecast to rise slightly to 14.5 million in May from the last month's 14.4 million.

Reports are expected from General Motors , Ford Motor Co. , Chrysler as well as the Japanese auto makers.

Blue chip news was sparse in the post market Thursday. Walt Disney Co. did announce, however, that it has named Alan Horn as chairman of its studios division. The move is aimed at easing shareholder concerns following the blockbuster bomb John Carter.

Mr. Horn oversaw the hugely successful runs of the Harry Potter and The Dark Knight movies at Warner Bros. and is one of the highest-profile executives in Hollywood. He had stepped down at Warner Bros. in April, 2011, and had a consulting agreement through 2013.

Walt Disney stock was steady in the post market.

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Elsewhere, Facebook was down about 1 per cent after closing up 5 per cent to $29.60.

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