Welcome to jobs week. The unemployment report from the Labor Department is usually the most closely watched set of monthly numbers. Most economists expect the February report will show that more than 200,000 jobs were added. Payrolls rose 243,000 in January, the most in nine months. The jobs market has been improving recently, but Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week it’s “far from normal.”
The stock market is off to the strongest start since 1998, says the Wall Street Journal. But the market could be facing headwinds in the coming days. Growing tension with Iran is one concern. Rising oil and gasoline prices could put the brakes on the economic recovery. The U.S. Energy Department’s weekly survey of pump prices is almost certain to report a gain when it’s released later today. There’s still uncertainty about a clear solution to Greece’s long debt crisis. The finance ministry in Athens says a debt reduction bond swap with private creditors is expected to go ahead next week. But there is still no firm agreement.
China has lowered its economic growth target this year to 7.5 percent. While that is high by Western standards, Bloomberg News reports an 8 percent goal has been in place since 2005, and this is a “signal that leaders are determined to reduce reliance on exports and capital spending in favor of consumption.”
A flower company has become the seventh advertiser to pull its advertising from Rush Limbaugh’s radio program. ProFlowers said on its Facebook page that it has suspended advertising on Limbaugh’s program because his comments about Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke “went beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our values as a company.” Limbaugh has apologized for his derogatory comments. The six other advertisers that say they have pulled ads from his show are mortgage lender Quicken Loans, mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, software maker Citrix Systems Inc., online data backup service provider Carbonite and online legal document services company LegalZoom.
Many Americans have gone crazy for coupons. But some stores are taking steps against extreme couponers. Rite Aid, Walmart and others now either limit the number of online manufacturer’s coupons a shopper could use in one day or make it more time consuming for those who try to use coupon to get free stuff. One recent survey finds coupon redemptions rose more than 60 percent last year.