What's ahead for the stock market?

Debt problems in the European Union and a higher dollar will affect stocks. The key earnings report may be Wal-Mart's on Tuesday. Also reporting: Lowe's, Home Depot, Target and Aeropostale.

By Charley Blaine May 14, 2010 9:01PM

Charley BlaineIf you're a day trader, you should have been buying stocks all day on Friday.

Stocks have rallied on 16 of 19 Mondays this year. There have been gains in the last nine Mondays. The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) opened this past week with a 405-point rally.

And most weeks have ended with modest gains or losses on Fridays, including this past week when the Dow fell 163 points.

It may be harder to get a rally on Monday. Sell-offs on Thursday and Friday dismayed investors. Crude oil fell to $71.61 a barrel, down 4.7% for the week and 9.8% for the year. It may fall further. There's a worry that there's no end to the debt problems for Greece, Spain and Portugal. And there aren't a lot of big earnings reports to look forward to, just home-improvement retailer Lowe's (LOW).

The European problems are maddening because they keep pushing the dollar higher; the greenback is up 11.2% against the euro. That's great if you're going to Paris or Greece. It's a problem for U.S. resort operators that cater to European travelers.

 

But it has had one other surprising effect: Interest rates have moved lower. This week's Freddie Mac survey said the national rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.91%, the lowest rate of the year and the fifth straight weekly decline.

Article continues below.

It's also a problem for U.S.-based multinational companies because profits from, say, Italy or Germany fall when the euro falls.

 

That's why Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which reports after Tuesday's close, Caterpillar (CAT) and Boeing (BA) were all lower on Friday.

 

Markets for the week
5/14/20105/7/2010% chg.YTD chg.
Dow industrials10,620.1610,380.432.3%1.8%
S&P 5001,135.681,110.882.2%1.8%
Nasdaq 2,346.852,265.643.6%3.4%
Russell 2000693.98653.006.3%11.0%
Crude oil $71.61$75.11-4.7%-9.8%
(per barrel)
U.S. Dollar Index 86.2384.462.1%10.2%
10-yr. Treasury3.44%3.43%0.4%-10.4%
Gold$1,227.80$1,210.401.4%12.0%
(per troy ounce)


The euro problem has basically put a top on the market. The Dow is off 5.2% from its closing high of 11,205, reached on April 26. The S&P 500 Index ($INX) is off 6.7% from its April 23 closing high of 1,217. The Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) peaked at 2,530 on April 23 and has fallen 7.2% since.

The S&P 500 pushed up against its 50-day moving average on Wednesday and fell back Thursday and Friday.

That's not a good signal of investor confidence. Especially as the economic recovery is starting to move beyond tentative to solid.

Retail earnings dominate the market this coming week. Here's a rundown.

Monday: Lowe's is the big report. Analysts see earnings of 30 cents a share, down from 32 cents a year ago. Revenue is supposed to hit $12.2 billion, up 3% from a year ago. Analysts are relatively bullish about Lowe's and rival Home Depot (HD), which reports on Tuesday; sales results from paint makers, outdoor furniture makers and the like have been stronger than expected.

Tuesday:Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Saks (SKS) before the bell; Hewlett-Packard after the close. There's a lot of skepticism about Abercrombie & Fitch. April sales weren't strong. Its European stores could be hit by the debt crisis. Saks reported a 3.2% gain in April sales, and upscale retailers have moved smartly out of the recession. When HP reports, there will be questions about two topics: What will it do with smart-phone maker Palm (PALM), which it agreed to buy for $2 billion, and how will the euro affect sales?

Wednesday: Deere (DE), Autodesk (ADSK), Limited Brands (LTD) and Target (TGT). Deere, which concentrates on farm and some construction equipment, could get hurt by Europe's problems. Target seems to be benefiting from the strengthening recovery and more consumer spending. The company recently said it expects to earn at least 86 cents a share for the fiscal first quarter.

Thursday: Aeropostale (ARO), Intuit (INTU), Ross Stores (ROST), Marvell Technology (MRVL) and Williams-Sonoma (WSM).  All of these companies have been raising guidance for the quarter or for the year. What's nice about Williams-Sonoma shares this week is that they have held above their 50-day moving average, signaling investor confidence.

Friday: Ann Taylor (ANN) and British Airways (BAIRY). On May 3, Ann Taylor said first-quarter sales should be up 6.7% to $475 million, with same-store sales up 11%. The stock has been holding up.  British Airways has been getting hit with strikes and shutdowns from volcanic-ash problems. The effect on the bottom line isn't known yet.

Housing and inflation reports ahead
The government's economic-reports machine clicks into a higher gear next week. Here are the reports to watch:

 

Building permits and housing starts for April, Tuesday. Most analysts see starts rising 3% to an annualized 645,000 units, as builders rushed to get projects moving so buyers could qualify for big federal tax credits. The numbers for permits (expected to come in at an annualized 677,000) may be more important as a way to measure what will happen now that the credits have expired. Analysts see housing-market declines in the short run but gains later this year because of the recovery.

 

Producer Price Index, Tuesday; Consumer Price Index, Wednesday. IHS Global Insight sees only slight gains for either, in large part because falling oil and gas prices will offset food-price gains.

 

Minutes from the April 27-28 meeting of the Federal Reserve, Wednesday.  The minutes, which come out at 2 p.m. ET,  will be scrutinized to see if calls are intensifying to start raising interest rates. A special meeting was held on May 9, generating lots of speculation that the Fed would boost its discount rate. But no decision was made.

 

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