S&P 500 first-quarter earnings growth is expected to increase just 2.1 percent. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
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If hiring picked up in March at a healthy pace, that could convince U.S. stock investors this week that the economy's recent setbacks caused by the weather were only temporary. Friday's monthly jobs report, the most widely watched U.S. economic indicator, is expected to show that employers added 200,000 jobs in March to nonfarm payrolls, according to a Reuters poll of economists.Rosier data could confirm for investors that recent weakness in economic data was caused by the winter's harsh weather, suggesting the U.S. economy's uptrend is intact.For the past week, the S&P utilities sector index rose 1.2 percent and the S&P energy index climbed 2.5 percent.S&P 500 first-quarter earnings growth is now expected to increase just 2.1 percent, down sharply from a Jan. 1 growth estimate of 7.6 percent, Thomson Reuters data showed.
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