The Markets This Week

July 29th, 2013

The stock market finished little changed last week on a dearth of directional news other than earnings reports. Technology stocks rose, but investors mainly marked time in anticipation of next week, which is laden with potentially market-moving news: A Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, the release of second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) figures, and July nonfarm payroll data.

There were plenty of second-quarter earnings results last week, some good and some less so, but none moved the broad market. In general, says Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones, S&P 500 company earnings “came in at a reasonable rate…nothing so good to drive the market higher, and nothing so worrisome to change the view that it is a solid but unspectacular second quarter.”
According to Zacks Investment Research, for the 240 S&P 500 companies that reported results as of Thursday, earnings are up 4.1% and revenue 3.8%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average staged a 150-point intraday comeback Friday, finishing at 15,558.83, up 0.1% on the week, and inches from an all-time high set last Monday. It’s up 18.6% this year. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index, however, fell marginally, down less than a point, to 1691.65. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index bucked the tide and rose 26 points, or 0.7%, to 3613.16.

Next week’s data could go a long way in determining what the market does in August, when many participants are on vacation.

So far the market has generally seemed relieved at the pace of earnings, Warne says, adding that next week’s data and FOMC meeting have the potential to set up a weak August. She’s expecting second-quarter GDP to show “a little less than 1% growth.” That, combined with a possible revision of first-quarter GDP to less than 2%, suggests investor sentiment about the U.S. economy could turn gloomy quickly. Throw in a Fed potentially talking up a tapering of its bond buying, and it isn’t a particularly auspicious backdrop for stock prices during a typically quiet month like August.

“We are vulnerable to a meaningful decline,” concurs Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist for Raymond James. It’s a traditionally weak point in the calendar, and he thinks there could be a short-term 10% or so decline in the period leading up to mid-August.

“You’ve got the second-in-command on the trading desk and the orders left are: ‘Don’t be a hero. Follow the market’s lead, whether it sells or buys,’ ” Saut says (Source: Barrons Online).

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