This week's stock market schedule highlights the fourth quarter GDP report, several important housing data points and the continuing flow of EPS reports.
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While there were no economic reports scheduled for Monday, the National Association of Business Economics (NABE) released its January 2011 Industry Survey. The report offered good news, as the NABE said the number of businesses expressing hiring plans for 2011 was the highest seen in over a decade.
Standard & Poor's warned that downgrades of municipal bonds could increase in the near future, due to the financial pressures and obligations on municipalities.
The Saudi Oil Minister to OPEC issued comments that included speak on the possibility of production increases, and so oil prices moderated Monday.
Tuesday brings two separate housing price metrics, including the S&P Case Shiller and the FHFA measures. In our view, both play second fiddle to the pricing data found in the Existing Home Sales Report, which was released last week. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) data showed the national median existing home price for all housing types fell about 1.0% against the prior year month, to a level of $168,800.
S&P Case Shiller will report on the month of October this week, but its data has reflected the price decline we've seen in the NAR data, just a couple months later. The FHFA data is not much better, as it will report on November. Economists don't bother to forecast this late data, as Bloomberg and others have no consensus estimates posted. Nonetheless, the reports will garner media attention and deserve yours, I suppose.
The Conference Board will report on Consumer Confidence for this January at 10:00 AM. Confidence unexpectedly slipped in December, catching many by surprise, since consumer activity seemed to be solid. We surmised here that perhaps consumers were experiencing buyer's remorse, after spending beyond their means and while still underemployed. The consensus of economists surveyed by Bloomberg anticipates the confidence index could gain to 54.3 this month, up from the 52.5 mark posted in December.
The Weekly Same-Store Sales data complement the consumer confidence report well Tuesday. Both the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Redbook report before the market opens on Tuesday. Last week's ICSC data, covering the period ended January 15, showed sales fell 0.1% week-to-week and inched up 1.4% against the prior year comparable period. Redbook saw a 2.5% year-over-year sales increase, still marking a slower rate of period relative growth than that seen through the year in 2010. Comps are of course normalized now, and the economy is not all that much better.
The Bank of Japan (BOJ) is expected to keep its monetary policy unchanged when it determines course Tuesday. The US Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) begins its two-day meeting.
In the evening, be sure to catch President Obama's State of the Union Address at 9:00 PM. Early whisperings are that the Congressional members might sit together, rather than separated by party line. The President's focus is likely going to be on restoring business, international trade, jobs and considering the fiscal budget. He will remind Americans why his health care legislation was passed and for whom, and we suspect geopolitical commentary will be hopeful, but strong. Look for a request for bipartisanship as well, given his hope for re-election and his need for GOP support to get things done over the next two years.
Three important drivers impact the market Wednesday morning. First of all, the President's address has the ability to move specific sectors, like alternative energy and defense, and beyond. The Federal Reserve FOMC decision is due today, and the New Home Sales data also reaches the wire.
New Home Sales will be reported for the month of December at 10:00 AM. Last week's Existing Home Sales report showed a pick up in the annual rate of sales, but homebuilder shares still shrank through the week (NYSE: XHB). Economists look for New Home Sales to speed up slightly to a still slow rate of 300K annually, up from 290K reported in November.
The Mortgage Bankers Association's Mortgage Activity data complements home sales data well on Wednesday. Last week's report showed the MBA's Market Composite Index increased 5.0% for the period ending January 14. The Refinance Index gained 7.7%, while the Purchase Index fell 1.9%. Fresh data will be available before the market opens Wednesday.
The Fed's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is expected to offer more of the same at 2:15 PM, a continuation of its QE2 effort and the maintenance of key interest rates in place at current levels. We've got a few new members in the Fed shuffle that could make for some interesting commentary when the meeting minutes are released.
The Congressional Budget Office will produce its annual budget and outlook. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner gets another invite to testify before the House Oversight Committee regarding the TARP program. Expect Geithner to get some business from the Congressional members with regard to his promise to report on China on time, which he promptly disregarded when the time came and passed… again.
A separate House meeting will hear testimony with regard to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf. Also, the CFTC is holding a meeting on its reform plans.
Davos, Switzerland takes center stage, with many of the world's financial leaders, economists, and government representatives meeting to discuss the problems of the world, etc. This event usually produces interesting discussion, like the trade of blame and debate by Turkish President Erdogan and Israeli President Peres a couple years ago.
The EIA Petroleum Status Report is due at 10:30 AM as usual Wednesday. Last week's report, covering the period ended January 14, showed crude oil inventory increased by 2.6 million barrels to a level above the upper limit of the average range. On Monday, an OPEC minister signaled that oil production could be hiked to keep prices tame. Gasoline inventory increased by 4.4 million barrels last week, and is above the upper limit of the average range.
Four economic reports clutter the morning Thursday. Look for the regular Weekly Initial Jobless Claims at 8:30 AM ET. Last week's data covering the period ended January 15 showed weekly claims eased back down to 404K, and the consensus is looking for 405K this week.
Durable Goods Orders are also due at 8:30 AM, and economists are looking for December orders to have risen by 1.5%, which compares against November's 0.3% drop (revised from -1.3%). This is a very volatile economic data point and regularly misses the mark wildly.
The Pending Home Sales Report is up for the month of November. The National Association of Realtors' index rose in November, continuing a five month trend, but it remains below the prior year level. Improvement has been gradual and not really all that noteworthy as yet; meanwhile other signs have indicated continued soft real estate pricing and sales activity.
The EIA reports on the status of Natural Gas at 10:30 AM. Last week's report covering the period ended January 14 showed working gas in storage decreased by 243 Bcf to a level 51 Bcf above the five-year average.
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission is set to produce its report Thursday.
Three economic reports fill Friday morning. The Advance Report of GDP for the Fourth Quarter is expected to show the economy grew by 3.5%. That would be up from the 2.6% rate seen in Q3. Look for this news in the premarket at 8:30 AM ET.
The Employment Cost Index is also due at 8:30 AM. This latest report is for the fourth quarter of 2010, and should reflect lax labor conditions. Some expect inflation to contribute something to this figure though.
At 9:55 AM, look for the Reuters/ University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment reading. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg see a slight pickup to a reading of 73.1 in January's final look, up from 72.7 in the preliminary read.
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