Apple, Amazon and the Fed all compete for attention in the week ahead

30-01-2017

Apple, Amazon and the Fed all compete for attention in the week ahead

Markets will be busy with economic reports and earnings, but Washington could continue to overshadow even the monthly jobs report and the Fed in the week ahead. Earnings from Apple, Amazon.com, Facebook and major drug companies Merck and Pfizer are among the dozens of companies reporting earnings. The Fed meets Tuesday and Wednesday and while no action is expected, the statement is expected to sound a little more hawkish as it looks forward to rate hikes. The January employment report Friday is the highlight of a heavy data calendar, which also includes personal income and spending Monday, the employment cost index Tuesday and car sales and ISM manufacturing data Wednesday. President Donald Trump wrapped his first week in office with a flurry of executive orders, tackling everything the Affordable Care Act to energy infrastructure to immigration. He met with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in his first official meeting with a head of state. Trump did rattle Mexico over the $60 billion annual trade deficit the U.S. has with Mexico, and as the administration engaged in talks with Mexican officials, the president got into an exchange with the president of Mexico over who would pay for a wall along the southern U.S. border. After an awkward diplomatic moment, the two presidents talked and then issued a conciliatory joint statement about how they will continue to talk. Markets took all of it in stride, and stocks ended the week with gains. The Dow, over 21,000 for the first time, ended the week at 20,093, up 1.3 percent for the week, while the S&P 500, above 2,300 briefly, ended the week at 2,294, up 1 percent. Sixty-six percent of the S&P 500 companies reporting earnings so far have beaten estimates, and profit growth is coming in at about 6.8 percent, according to Thomson Reuters. "The Fed, I think will be a reminder that the Fed is still going to be an important ingredient in the market's performance this year. Next week, there's no press conference and I would expect the language in the statement that comes out after the meeting to sound roughly balanced. That's what we were left with last time," said Leo Grohowski, chief investment officer at BNY Mellon Wealth Management. Grohowski said there's a low chance of a hike even at the Fed's March meeting but he does see two to three rate hikes this year. "Nothing [on rate hikes] until June, but therein lies the potential risk. Most of the focus next week will be on employment but over the course of the week I'm watching inflation. That's something we have to keep an eye on," Grohowski said. Wages have begun to rise, and CPI headline inflation crossed 2 percent last month for the first time in two years. "We get a couple of important reports. There's a PCE report [Monday] and the wage report in the employment report" on Friday, he said. Amherst Pierpont chief economist Stephen Stanley said he's also watching the inflation data, and expects to see average hourly wages rise by about 0.3 percent in Friday's employment report. He expects 165,000 nonfarm payrolls. "165,00 is pretty similar to what we've seen in the last two to three months of 2016. I think the labor markets have gotten tight so it's going to be difficult to see big gains at this point," said Stanley. "The wage numbers are going to be trending higher. They moved in a pretty definitive way last year. We're at the point in my view, where we're past full employment. We've seen wages rising." Traders say Washington will be the big focus again next week, and markets are looking for information on the Trump programs that have driven stocks higher. They are also cautiously watching for any developments on trade that could seem protectionist. They will also be watching for any news from Trump's separate weekend phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Germany and France. "I'm amazed at how under control the volatility has been in the face of these daily headlines," said Grohowski. "In the bigger picture, that's been one surprise ... how the market broadly speaking has remained calm when you think of measures like the VIX. When I think of the year unfolding it could be extremely dangerous to extrapolate out anything resembling a calm, low volatility environment." The VIX, the CBOE's volatility index, declined 8 percent in the past week to end at 10.58, hitting a three-year low Friday. "I sense there's still an awful lot of cash sitting on the sidelines," said Grohowski. "There's as much anxiety about missing the next leg higher, as there is about protecting for a downside scenario." Grohowski is targeting 2,350 for the S&P 500, not much higher this year. Opposite 2016, he said the market could perform better in the first part of the year, rather than the last. He said the market is focused on policy, particularly tax reform, and there could be a misstep a long the way that drives it lower. Analysts have been concerned that the trade talk could begin to sound protectionist and result in tariffs. The White House, in fact, raised the idea of a 20 percent import tax on Mexican goods as one idea on Thursday. "While we feel better about the earnings outlook, I do feel creeping into sentiment, more expectations. I'm calling this year, it's going to be a 'show me.' I think there's still expectations driving this market higher," he said. "It's going to be show me the tax reform, show me the regulatory ease. There's a lot of expectations building up."