Ahead for investors: The 3 E's and housing

The economy, Europe and earnings, including reports from Goldman Sachs, eBay, Google and Microsoft, will command a lot of investor attention. And 4 big reports will help clarify whether the housing market is starting to mend.

By Charley Blaine Jan 13, 2012 10:35PM
Charley BlaineUpdated: 10:25 p.m. Sunday

The stock market has enjoyed a nice little to start to 2012. The coming week may tell investors if the rally has the strength to withstand the stresses of earnings and economic reports and the constant headache of Europe's debt crisis. And if big money is right about a housing rebound coming.

Expect a roller-coaster week. Thanks to the Martin Luther King holiday that will close U.S. markets, their European counterparts will get a chance Monday to react mostly alone to Friday's downgrades of the debt of nine countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Then the earnings kick in: Citigroup (C), Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), Bank of America (BAC), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), Microsoft (MSFT) and General Electric (GE). That's for starters.

The economic reports include two on inflation, three on manufacturing and four related to the health of housing.

When the week is done, investors will know a lot: If the banking system can withstand Europe. If the market has some gains ahead of it. Whether tensions with Iran will escalate into something dangerous. Whether the housing rebound is real.

Article continues below.
The market ended Friday with its second weekly gain in a row. The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) gained 0.5%, with the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) up 0.9%, and the Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) ahead 1.4%.

The market settled into a pattern of low volume but also low volatility. That may sound boring, but that's a bit of a relief after 2011, when the Dow moved up or down 100 points on 42% of 2011's 252 trading days. If you want a really good market, slow and steady gains offer staying power.

The week ahead brings the reaction to the European downgrades and the collapse of talks over restructuring Greece's debt and some big earnings.

You can expect some volatility from the downgrades and, more probably, from the Greek crisis. What no one wants is a messy default where no one knows the facts. Especially the exposure of big investors, such as French banks, to a default.

Futures trading late Sunday -- and early Monday trading in Asia -- suggests the downgrades and Greece are going to weigh on non-U.S. markets overall Monday. Futures on U.S. stock indexes were lower, which may lead to a lower open for U.S. stocks on Tuesday.

Earnings may well become a bigger influence on markets as the week moves on. The early part of earnings season is banks and big a lot of big techs, and they move markets.

And then there's housing. It's a disaster, right? Well, maybe not. The uncertainty has to do with the big run-up in housing-related stocks since the market bottomed in early October.

The Philadelphia Housing Sector Index ($HGX), which tracks big homebuilders like PulteGroup (PHM), Ryland (RYL) and D.R. Horton (DHI), is up 11% so far in January. That's after falling 31% in the second and third quarters of 2011 and gaining 29.5% in the fourth quarter.

Shares of Home Depot (HD), Lowe's (LOW), Masco (MAS), which makes faucets and cabinets) and paint-maker Sherwin-Williams (SHW) have been rallying strongly since the summer at least. The one exception, which is worth considering: Whirlpool (WHR).

Is something really happening? Building permits, which are better to study than housing starts, look like they've bottomed. Existing-home sales look like they've bottomed. But the problem with housing is that the great unknown is whether foreclosures are close to getting cleaned out.

You see that in home prices, which are still falling because of the pressure that prices of foreclosed homes exert on many markets, such as Florida, Arizona, California and Nevada. In Ohio, single-family home prices fell 7.2% in November. Take out the distressed-property sales, and prices were up 0.3%.

The data suggest that housing activity was better in the fall than the summer on a relative basis. (Home sales typically peak in June or July.) But we're still dealing with record-low levels of activity. Existing-home sales in November were off nearly 40% from their peak in 2005. Building permits are still off nearly 70% from their bloated high in mid-2005.

If there are gains on all these reports, that's a signal something is happening. You'll see it in increased single-family permits and starts and home sales.

It could well be that multifamily permits are telling us a rebound is forming. They typically start to expand nine months to a year before single-family starts. That seems to be occurring now.

This week brings four reports that will help clarify the situation:
  • The Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly survey on mortgage applications on Tuesday. This index perked up a little in the week ended Jan. 6. It's been flat or declining, a reflection of consumer confidence.
  • The National Association of Home Builders' confidence index on Wednesday. This should show some increasing confidence among homebuilders.
  • The Commerce Department's December report on housing starts and building permits on Thursday. Expect a small gain.
  • The National Association of Realtors' December report on existing-home sales on Friday. Expect a small gain.

Markets for the week



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The earnings: Banks and big tech
The week ahead begins the acceleration of earnings reports for the fourth quarter.

Here's a rundown of some of the key reports:

Tuesday: Citigroup, TD Ameritrade (AMTD), Wells Fargo (WFC). The key is whether problem loan rates, particularly in home loans, is coming down. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) suggested Friday they were.

Wednesday: Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust (NTRS), State Street (STT), eBay (EBAY) and F5 Networks (FFIV). The latter is a big player in cloud computing. Goldman Sachs will probably show weak earnings because of reduced trading and investment banking revenue. And look for its exposure to Europe.

Thursday:Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), American Express (AXP), Bank of America, Southeastern banking company BB&T Corp. (BBT), Google, IBM (IBM), Intel (INTC), Morgan Stanley (MS), Southwest Airlines (LUV), Union Pacific (UNP) and Microsoft, the publisher of MSN Money. Like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley has suffered from reduced trading and investment-banking business. It also has been combating worries about Europe. Bank of America has lots of problems. Watch what it says about its troubled mortgage operations.

Friday: General Electric, SunTrust Banks (STI) and oil-services giant Schlumberger (SLB).

The economy: Inflation and manufacturing
Aside from the housing reports, the week is concentrated on manufacturing and inflation.

Empire Manufacturing Index for January, due Tuesday from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Look for continued gains from December.

Producer Price Index for December, due Wednesday from the Labor Department. This should show few inflation pressures.

Industrial production for December, due Wednesday from the Commerce Department. Disruptions last fall caused by Thailand flooding that damaged electronics plants should be clearing up. But utilities may be weak because of abnormally warm weather in December.

Philly Fed manufacturing Index for January, due Thursday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Like the Empire index, look for continued gains from December.

Jan 14, 2012 8:52AM

With some housing numbers due this week...keep in mind that there are still millions of homeowners underwater on their mortgages with no chance the market will rebound to even get them back to even.  In addition, the majority of the banks and mortgage companies have slowed down the foreclosure proceedings due to not having enough help to process the paperwork and government intervention imposing a moratorium so there are millions of more homes that should and will be foreclosed on it's just a matter of when.  Factor all this in and the net result is there is a bunch of exisitng homes that will become foreclosures thus keeping the market down and forcing prices lower. 


I would also question the existing home sales reported by the National Association of Realtors as they have admittedly lied in the past about reporting over inflated numbers and it wasn't until CorelLogic an independent 3rd party investigated them did they admit they reported false numbers.  Numbers are too often manipulated to make things appear better than they really are.   

Jan 14, 2012 12:56AM
The problem with housing for the Wall Street scumbag type is that they are NOT going to go back to what they were before. The days of rape and pillaging the Real Estate market are gone, for now at least.

Even as things improve (which they aren't ) too many people now have the knowledge that it doesn't really matter, you can walk away from your house if it gets to expensive. That the stigma is pretty much gone for BK and to NOT believe a ****ing thing the bank has to say. Hire a real estate lawyer for a closing :) Not all that expensive. Banks are LOVING that one.

People have had the confidence blown that a house is an investment. Who is going to risk paying tons of money for a house when everyone is looking for a deal ....... Many Many people are creating a new American Dream. Being Debt free.

People have had their mobility destroyed being tied to a house they can't sell and since they didn't buy it planning to live there the next 50 years they are basically screwed. How bout all those millions and millions of foreclosed houses that are ghetto holes now in what were once nice neighborhoods...what​ is going to happen to those? What about the house values near those homes? Lets face it the banks aren't going to invest in them. they will just sit on them forever until some wall street **** buys them cheap and sells them as meth labs. So you have contniual decline in values there as well.

Housing is shot. Forget housing for at least the next 5 - 10 years. And that's if this country gets its **** together. Big IF.

Jan 13, 2012 11:07PM
The only thing i will agree about this article regarding the housing sector, is that you can count on the fact that the only true way to know when the market is on a rebound is when the building permit requests are on the way up. By the end of this month many more homes will go into forclosure due to those A.R.M.'s that come due at the end of January and many people will not be able to pay those loans. The real indicator won't be until spring.
Jan 14, 2012 9:55AM

hmmm...  In many states you cannot even close on a real estate deal without being represented by counsel.  The banks didn't force people to buy over priced real estate, not did they force people to default. 


If they do not default, no housing crisis.  Now the banks didn't care if the people they lent money to could afford the loans.  They were being unloaded on Freddie and Fannie.  Three government policies drove up prices and created the mess...


1. Interest Deductiblity on RE loans.

2. The first $500,000 in RE profits being tax free.

3. The government insisting the 20% rule not be inforced by lenders.


All 3 of these items brought speculators into the maket.  If you can't even come up with 20% of your bet, why are you gambling?  Imagine if the first 500K in stock market profits were tax free.


Plus people had been sold a bill of goods that Real Estate can only go up in value.  Utter  nonsense.  Real Estate became way over-valued, and people that bought at the top with extreme leverage will get crushed.


I know of no one being foreclosed upon that paid cash.  We have a 50%  margin rule for stocks, imposed by  the SEC.   We needed a 25% margin rule for RE imposed by the FDIC.  Our so called 'regulators' failed totally, and actually caused the problem.  Even today these regulators have failed to institute this rule.  Of course many banks have returned to this rule inspite of government resistence.


Jan 15, 2012 12:21PM
"Economy, Yep trillions in stimulus, interest rates near zero. On total life support and just barely ticking."
Embarrassed The POINT is the top 10-20% including me are scamming the bottom 50-70% by printing more and more fiat currency prompting the fools to borrow and buy more and more junk while their real assets are being devalued and junk is made in China by $250 month workers. Then the 99% protesters, actually representing the bottom 50% want to blame Wall Street and the establishment for their stupidly of spending $50-100 grand they didn't have on a worthless social science degree in English, psychology or something else that guarantees them $30k a year. That's like spending $40k on an electric car to save $3k a year on gas while piling up $60k in car loan payments. Patient's got socialism cancer and no amount of placebos will cure it.
Jan 14, 2012 1:26AM
I am sick and tired of all these overpaid, imbecilic and morally greedy CEO'S that just continue to rape and pillage the middle class of this country!!  They think we are here for them to take all we have and then demand more, more, more!!!  Give me a break!!  They have no right to attain those astronomical salaries they are getting from these companies,and not to mention all of the employees, who without them should all fall into the deepest recesses of the earth, and perish forever!!  Let's start to rid ourselves of these over bloated, and overpaid idiots, not to mention all of these no-talent celebrities, that continue to garnish overblown salaries from idiotic, and morally depressing movies, of no value what so ever.  I will not pay over $20.00 to go to a movie with a date, or girlfriend to sit and watch any movie, with all-out profanity, in every scene, or nudity, or direct adversity against any type of guidance, or moral teachings.  This country is going the way of Sodom and Gomorrah, and will continue down this spiraling trend of "I'll do what I want, and no one can stop me attitude".  This country must fight for moral ethics, both in the entertainment arena, as well as the corporate world.  There soon will be a world of only two classes, the "haves", and the "Have-nots", sad to say, we are fast approaching this status, and there seems to be no stopping down this road, because the courts are not punishing the criminals, they are finding for the criminal, through sly lawyers, and indifference in the court system of laws.  The greedy are getting richer, the poor are getting pregnant, and the immigrants, are all getting free rides!!!   What is wrong with this picture?  The elders are something to discard, because they will soon be gone, so they serve no real purpose.  The young ones will always be there to fleece, and lead to the slaughter.  This is a sorry world, and sad to say, I am ashamed to be a part of this country.
Jan 14, 2012 3:16AM
Congress and the European governments better get their act together or we are headed for a déjà vu Great Depression, al la cart 21st century type, that is going to make the 1930 type look like a cake walk.
Jan 15, 2012 11:11AM

Comrade ActiveRIA...


We are now around 15.8 Trillion in debt.  Given 308 million Americans this means that the average family of 4 has a 200,000 debt hanging over their heads.  This 'debt' has been pile dup upon Americans by the deficit socialist spending.  This years debt will be over 1.3 Trillion (I am betting closer to 1.6 Trillion). 


Of course Democrats, not believing in equality when it comes to taxes, will say let someone else pay!  Taxes, sir need to be paid by all, we cannot continue leaving 48% of Americans paying zero Federal Income tax.   If you insist on this progressive tax nightmare, how many people will lose their jobs to pay for these taxes.  As someone that hires people, I can assure  you, I will layoff as many people as needed to pay these new taxes. 


Comrade ActiveRIA, why don't you ever state what tax rates  you want?   Why not tell us what you feel is fair?  I accept the  fact that you feel 'fair' means UNEQUAL.  Why  not explain your utopian vision?

Jan 14, 2012 11:51AM

We are a representative republic with a self-interested president and congress putting their interests ahead of progress for the nation and the jobs progress would create. Our government is a mess but it is perhaps a lot better than elsewhere in the world. America has advantages which will gradually overcome the negative drag of Washington. America is the only major nation that sits of both of the world.' great oceans. This is a huge economic advantage. We still have vast basic resources. We still have a competitive, though complicated, capitalist system. Yes, it favors the wealthy, but that's life. Do away with the wealthy and who do we have to supply us with capital? And without capital, no jobs, baby. So stop gripping and start looking for ways to improve your own life.

This will still be an American centuryalong with China and India.

Jan 15, 2012 2:01PM
Two simple questions:

1. Would We The People (both the 99% & the 1%) all be better off if had there been no Partisan Politics for the last say, 30 years? No Dems, no Reps, no professional politicians, and just one and two term elected representatives from all walks of life and income brackets?

2. Would We The People (the 99% only, moot point for the 1%) all be better off had there never been a Credit Card Industry to help drive the masses into a "debt of convenience," and suck anywhere from 2% to 30% of every dollar spent using plastic out of the economy?

Jan 16, 2012 12:35AM
are you rooting for America to become a third-world country one day with a ruling one percent elite like Syria?
Smile No Active I'm not rooting for anything just analyzing what the American voters are doing to themselves with a little help from the two corrupt political parties that are afraid to do what's right and world wide capitalists that are rightly serving their shareholders. The saga we're watching in the EU has to be a warning that the US can not police the world, provide free medical and other services to immigrants and other needy groups and provide the benefits paid for by it's retiring citizenry. Where is the EU going to get the $39 trillion in pension obligations it has promised it's citizens? We've had this discussion many times.
Jan 16, 2012 8:43AM

Sometimes I think, We The People, come out better

on days that Wall Street takes off for a Holiday ...?Smile


These are days that Europe can go to hell in a hand basket and

it doesn't effect us...


Jan 14, 2012 10:08PM

It seems that roller coaster weeks are those weeks that Ben Bernanke has a case of the hiccoughs.


Three "E"s, sounds like a failing grade to me.


Economy, Yep trillions in stimulus, interest rates near zero. On total life support and just barely ticking.


Europe, No real workable solutions, and their downturn began last quarter.


Earnings, We'll see how that goes. Still this isn't baseball, so one for three isn't too good.

Jan 16, 2012 5:19PM

Mirage and all others,not just you......

Every President and or Adminstration has funded "green" companies or methods to wean us off of oil for 30 years.......Some(maybe too many) are failures, but we still do and are.


Doesn't Congress cut those or approve the CHECKS?

And is it not the Senate and Congress, that SUPPORT a lot of this PORK ??Surprised

NAME me a President that hasn't supported those energy policies Since Ford or Carter

Including those two also.

Jan 14, 2012 1:12AM
You may have a valid point....Credit
Jan 16, 2012 5:58PM

Yup GREED got cornered and they beat the poop out of him....


Until he bought his way out,before he got killed.

Jan 15, 2012 2:59PM

Yup Yamantic.....That was pretty much what the Founders, intended it too be.


A Republic, represented by the Republic's people, elected or appointed.

For the betterment of the Republic and not to usurp certain States Rights. 

"We the people....."....for the people,by the people.

The Republic grew and PROGRESS changed many things.....


Including your Credit system, which the masses participated in, at their free will and peril. 

Jan 16, 2012 8:49AM
Euro again..??   How's this: "Stocks rise on reports that McDonalds will put one Euro in each "Happy Meal" ?      Dumb for sure.. but fits with this reporting. This is at least a new spin these guys haven't already wore out.
Jan 16, 2012 5:49PM

My other was involved in that business(owned)...


Office suppliers and Printing companies have dropped like flies in winter over the last 10 years.

She got out...getting was good about 12+ years ago...Retired.


Office Max/Staples put the hurt on all.

With computers and printers,everyone became a publisher...At 4-times the cost. Not too bright.  Light bulb

Jan 16, 2012 3:42PM

haven't these kind of events already been grounds for losing church tax free status? 


At the end of Sunday's sermon, after Jarrett had delivered her remarks to the congregation, the church held a voter registration drive.
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