'Insane amount of catalysts' on investors' radar in the week ahead

25-07-2016

'Insane amount of catalysts' on investors' radar in the week ahead

The final week of July is guaranteed to be one of the busiest of the summer, as traders watch to see if a nascent earnings recovery is enough to justify record-high stock prices. The coming week is packed with lots of potential market movers, starting with the release of earnings from about 35 percent of companies in the S&P 500. There's also a Fed meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, the Democratic National Convention starting Monday and a much anticipated Bank of Japan meeting at the end of the week. Before the week even gets underway, the G-20 meets in China over the weekend, and next Friday, stress test results are expected for those worrisome European banks. Earnings are from a diverse group of companies, including internet names like Facebook, Amazon.com and Alphabet, and blue chips like Apple, McDonald's, Verizon, Boeing and Merck. Big Oil also reports, with Exxon Mobil and Chevron out on Friday. The Fed is not expected to take any action, but its words will be watched closely. There's also durable goods Wednesday and U.S. second-quarter GDP Friday, expected to show a bounce back to about 2.7 percent growth after a weak first quarter. "It's the busiest week of earnings season. It's the broadest," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist with Wunderlich Securities. "There's going to be an insane amount of catalysts during the course of the week. The good news is that in terms of data, everything that was from June across the board was better than expected. If you look at the beat rate on earnings and revenues, they were on a better pace." Stocks ended the past week higher, helped in part by the view that the first blast of earnings reports could be signaling an end to the earnings recession. Earnings are expected to be down about 3 percent this quarter, but so far the beats have been stronger than usual. This quarter, earnings have been coming in 6.2 percent above estimates on average, well above the long-term average beat of 3 percent, according to Thomson Reuters. Stocks in July have been hitting new high after new high. The S&P 500 closed Friday at 2,175, a new high. It was up 0.6 percent for the week and is now up about 3.5 percent for the month to date, but Tom Lee, founder of Fundstrat, thinks the party could be coming to an end after this final week in July. August is historically one of the worst months for stocks, and he notes the market has run up quickly in July. "I think it's fair to be scared. The market is scary in August," Lee said. But after a sell-off, he still expects a second-half gain of 8 to 10 percent. Lee said one of the negatives for stocks in August could be higher rates, which were depressed at record lows earlier in July, as investors moved into the U.S. from super low and negative yields in other parts of the world. But they have since moved up, as the fears about Brexit evaporated and U.S. economic reports have been better than expected. Hogan also sees a bumpy August for stocks. "It's going to be choppy, more on the fact that we've probably gotten to levels where everybody's gotten nervous. As much as we celebrate the nine days in a row of the Dow being up and seven days of records, what starts to set in is a little bit of vertigo," he said. Hogan said his worry is that oil prices start to break down more, below the $45 to $50 per barrel range, and that would drag on stocks. The G-20 finance ministers are not expected to take any action, but they will discuss the Brexit, or the U.K. exit from the European Union. U.K. PMI data took a hit Friday in its first post-Brexit reading, while European data was not impacted. "They will talk about it, but nothing urgent. They will probably talk about Italian banks, and in general the financial system," said Andres Jaime, global FX and rates strategist at Barclays. European stress test data is awaited Friday for about 50 banks, and Italian banks have been topping the list of concerns because of their nonperforming loans and low profitability. "For next week, I think the main topic is going to be the BoJ. I think it's important just given the recent chatter about helicopter money," said Jaime. Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda was quoted this past week as saying there would be no "helicopter money," meaning the BoJ would not buy bonds issued by the government to stimulate the economy. The comment rippled through markets, but it became clear that the BBC interview was done in mid-June, not recently as originally perceived by traders. "It has been a bit difficult to read them. We don't know what to expect," said Jaime of the BoJ. He said he expects the BoJ could take its negative rates deeper into negative territory, and it could increase purchases of ETFs. Hogan too said the BoJ probably outweighs the Fed in terms of importance this week. "I think the Bank of Japan probably has the highest level of expectation. We moved into a world believing the central banks around the world would be more accommodative because of the U.K. referendum, and so far it's been all talk and no action," he said. "The Bank of Japan is the lone holdout where there will be some accommodation." This past week, the European Central Bank held off on stimulus, but the markets expect it may act in September. The Bank of England the prior week held off and suggested it could act in August. As for the Fed, it's certainly not expected to move on rates, and it's also not likely to say much new Wednesday afternoon following its meeting. "It's just a situation where they want to keep their options open. They're not going to be specific about most things," said Michael Hanson, senior economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "I can't imagine them giving any strong signal about September being on the table, but September has some probability. It's not zero. In terms of the statement, they're likely to acknowledge that the data is a bit better." Hanson said he expects the next rate hike in December. The futures market is giving about a 50 percent chance for a rate hike by then. The Fed was concerned about weakness in the labor market when it met in June, plus it had concerns that the U.K. referendum could impact financial conditions and hurt the global economy. But the June employment report showed 287,000 new jobs, after a weak May report that ultimately was revised down to just 11,000. "The fears of the June FOMC meeting, based on the labor market data, I would argue have largely abated. I think they would acknowledge that," said Hanson. Jim Caron, fixed income portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, said he sees the Fed leaving rates unchanged Wednesday and also holding off in September. "Not that the Fed is going to communicate dovish policy, but they could sound dovish by not being hawkish," he said.