Wall Street is set for another volatile week after the Labor Day holiday, as investors track the price of oil, key economic data and continued fallout from the credit crisis.
All eyes will be on Hurricane Gustav and its potential to disrupt U.S. Gulf Coast oil production and refining operations on its expected land-hit early in the week. Any new threat to oil production could boost the price of crude and in turn cause stock investors to sell shares on fears that inflation pressure will rise.
Investors will also contend with a barrage of economic data next week, notably the August payrolls report due out on Friday and two reports on U.S. factory activity from the Institute for Supply Management.
But the hurricane will be the main focus at the beginning of the week. On Friday, officials said the storm would build to a dangerous Category 3 hurricane when it hits land.
In the past week, oil prices have surged and retreated on concerns about the storm's path, strength and the readiness of U.S. emergency officials to handle any disruptions.
Crude oil hit $120 on Thursday before settling at $115 on Friday, bolstered by a stronger dollar.
Gustav "will probably be moving the market one way or the other," said John Praveen, chief investment strategist at Prudential International Investments Advisers LLC in Newark, New Jersey. "If it fizzles then it will be a big relief on oil prices."
Also driving the market next week are several government economic reports.
This data comes after the U.S. government said gross domestic product grew at a robust 3.3 percent clip between April and June, above initial estimates of 1.9 percent.
But analysts said the strong showing was largely the result of increased exports.
"If you look at GDP, you're led to believe the economy is solid," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Johnson Illington Advisor in Albany, New York. "But if you look at the variables -- employment, industrial production and personal...