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By Bryan McCormick

The economic calendar is crowded again today, with six releases scheduled. In addition to the usual weekly reports, Chain Store Sales will be announced.

There is no fixed timetable for the releases, which will be provided by each retailer separately beginning early in the pre-market. We can expect retail stocks to be active, as well as exchange-traded funds such as the SPDR S&P Retail and the Retail HOLDRS.

The Monster Employment Index will be released at 6 a.m. ET. There is no forecast available for the index, but last mont's reading was a two-year high of 145. A reading higher than 145 would show a continuation of the bullish uptrend, while a number below 140 would likely be seen as bearish.

Jobless Claims will be reported at 8:30 a.m. ET. The consensus forecast for initial claims is 415,000 which would be a drop from last week's 424,000. Estimates range from a bullish drop to 395,000 to a bearish rise to 430,000.

A move well below 400,000 would break an important psychological divide between bearish and bullish indications of employment trends. Given that the range is relatively narrow for this release, a break of either end of the range is likely to produce a strong market reaction. A reading above 450,000 would be very bearish.

Productivity and Costs will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET. Most economists expect productivity to increase by 1.7 percent and unit labor costs to rise by 0.8 percent. The most bearish outcome for business profits would be a drop in productivity and a sharp rise in labor costs. The most bullish result would be a sharp rise in productivity and a drop in labor costs.

Factory Orders data comes out at 10 a.m. ET. The consensus forecast calls for a reading of -1 percent. Expectations range from a bearish -3 percent to a fractional -0.1 percent. A small loss or a small gain would be seen as bullish, given the bearish skew in forecasts.

The EIA Petroleum Status Report will be released at 10:30 a.m. ET. Before the EIA data comes out, the American Petroleum Institute issues a competing report based on its own supply data.

The forecast for both reports was for a draw of -1.3 million barrels. But the API release, which came out last night after the market closed, showed a large build of 3.465 million barrels instead.

If the EIA data confirms this positive number indicating a build, or shows an even larger one, it could be bearish for oil. If it indicates a build that is smaller than the API's or is a negative number indicating a draw, it could be bullish for crude.

The EIA is a government body, and the API is a private industry group. The two reports do not always agree either in terms of amount or direction.

Source: Labor, Retail, Oil, Business Data on Thursday's Economic Calendar