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Will January be a big month for stocks?

Maybe so. Stocks have already grown by 20% since November, as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Index. A new survey from CNBC suggests more of that is to come, with stocks expected to score double-digit gains in 2009. The CNBC report also said the economy should show signs of a rebound by the third quarter,

CNBC's Trillion Dollar Survey of money managers, analysts and traders said that 69 percent of respondents believe the S&P 500 could gain more than 10 percent in 2009. In that group, 26 percent said the S&P could even be up more than 20 percent. Just six percent saw negative returns, and all of those said the S&P could be down 10 percent or more.

The third quarter of 2009 should be the next quarter to show positive growth for the U.S. economy, according to 51 percent of respondents. Another 22 percent said they expect positive growth in the fourth quarter, while 18 percent see it earlier, in the second quarter. Six percent do not expect positive GDP until 2010.

Tech Check’s Jim Goldman is also out this weekend with a new story saying Microsoft is going to aggressively cut costs, but not resort to layoffs, in early 2009.

Analysts have been waiting for the other shoe to drop in Seattle, with many expecting that Microsoft would have to start slashing jobs to fight back against slowing consumer demand for its products across the globe. One tech blog reported last week that the company would open the new year by slicing 15,000 jobs. That earned a curt response from Microsoft which said the report was “grossly exaggerated”, according to Goldman.

Microsoft will be taking the axe to its vaunted network of contractors, though. The Seattle Times says 180 contractors in Microsoft’s browser division had their contracts cancelled, evidence that suggests Microsoft will cut even further into its contractor base. The company will also dramatically cut travel expenses and freeze hiring, much like Cisco and Google have done, Goldman adds.

The tea leaves suggesting that Microsoft will be looking to cut elsewhere is a good sign, suggesting that Silicon Valley may have seen the worst of the recession and can now focus on creative ways to bring customers back to the fold, with its work force intact.

That said, look for the Microsoft/Cisco/Google model to reign supreme in 2009. Not a lot of layoffs, but no new hires, and big cuts everywhere else. 2009, it seems will be a year of “wait and see” for tech companies.

"The job market of 2008 suffered as the U.S. economy weakened and entered into a recession," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.com, which released a study on December 30 saying that hiring would be way down for the new year. "Looking ahead, recruitment levels are expected to be lower in the new year, but employers are not out of the mix completely; instead they're taking 'a wait and see' approach to hiring. Fourteen percent of employers, surveyed by CareerBuilder.com, state they plan to increase full-time, permanent employees and 16 percent plan to decrease in 2009. The remainder of employers say they are unsure or don't plan to make any changes to their headcount in the new year." According to the CareerBuilder study, full-time Fourteen percent of employers plan to increase their number of full-time, permanent employees in 2009, compared to 32 percent who anticipated increasing headcount in 2008. Sixteen percent plan to decrease staff levels in 2009 while 56 percent expect no change.

No doubt, companies are holding back until signs of improvement on the economic landscape are clear. And that may not happen well into 2009.

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