Traders at the New York Stock Exchange, July 20, 2021.
Here comes one of the biggest market weeks of the summer.
First, the Federal Reserve meets Tuesday and Wednesday. While no action is expected, there could be some mention of the central bank’s possible wind-down of its bond program. That could move the markets since the tapering of the central bank’s bond purchases is seen as the first step on the way to interest rate hikes.
Then there are about 165 S&P 500 companies releasing earnings reports, including the biggest tech names— Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, and Facebook. Tesla is reporting, as are industrial heavyweights Boeing and Caterpillar. There is a slew of consumer names, including Procter & Gamble and McDonald’s.
There is also important economic news. The second quarter is expected to be the peak period for post-pandemic growth, and the gross domestic product for the quarter will be released Thursday. On Friday, the Fed’s favorite inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditure inflation index, is released.
Fresh highs for major indexes
The three major U.S. stock indexes enter the busy week with fresh closing records. The Dow closed above 35,000 for the first time on Friday. The S&P 500 gained 1% to close at 4,411.79, and the Nasdaq Composite ended the day up 1%.
“I think earnings are going to be the show, and if the pattern we’ve seen thus far continues next week, and it’s likely it will, that’s going to find a market that has a path of least resistance to the upside and I think that’s good news,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities.
According to Refinitiv, earnings for the second quarter are looking to be up 78.1%.
“It’s going to be crazy,” said Hogan. “I think the order of magnitude of earnings beats is still underappreciated, and I think that will continue next week: 87% of companies are beating estimates.”
Hogan said early in the earnings season, stocks of companies that beat expectations did not react, but now they are and that should continue. The fact a handful of the biggest market cap stocks — like Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet — are reporting so close to each other could have an impact.
“This is like the World Series of earnings smack in the middle of summer,” he said.
Investors will also be watching the behavior of the markets themselves. Stocks ended the week with solid gains, but the bruising sell-off Monday has left its mark. Some strategists say it could have been a warning sign for more turbulence later in the quarter.
Stocks took their cue from the 10-year Treasury yield, which was falling Monday on fears the delta variant of Covid could slow global growth. The yield hit a low of 1.12% early Tuesday before reversing. As the benchmark yield rose, stocks rallied.
For now, stocks seem to be set for more gains. The Dow closed the past week at 35,061.55, up about 1%. The S&P 500 gained 1.9% for the week, ending at 4,411.79. The Nasdaq climbed 2.8% week-to-date, and the small-cap Russell 2000 rose 2.1%.
Communications services, which includes internet names, was the best performing sector in the past week with a 3.2% gain. Tech was also strong, up 2.8%. Consumer discretionary was also a top sector, up 2.9%. Cyclical industrials and material lagged with fractional gains, and energy was slightly lower.
Scott Redler, a chief strategy officer with T3Live.com, said the Big Tech names like Apple and Microsoft are already doing well ahead of earnings, so it will be important to see how they trade.
“Some things are priced for perfection and some aren’t,” he said. “Microsoft is already at an all-time high. It’s priced for perfection. It will be interesting to see if Apple can hold and stay above $150.” Apple closed at $148.56 per share Friday.
Fed ‘taper talk’
Ben Jeffery, the U.S. rates strategist at BMO, said Treasury yields could find a catalyst in the Fed. He expects the 10-year to begin moving down again and says it could possibly touch a low of 1.10%. The 10-year was at 1.28% Friday afternoon.
Strategists do not expect to see much new in the Federal Reserve’s statement. They await comments from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell for guidance on the central bank’s move toward tapering back its quantitative easing program.
The Fed is expected to announce that it is officially talking about winding down the program well before it actually starts. Many Fed watchers believe that guidance will come in late August, at the central bank’s Jackson Hole symposium, or later in the fall.
“I think it will be interesting to see how dovish Powell tries to be with the delta variant risk and concerns about that,” said Jeffery.
Luke Tilley, chief economist at Wilmington Trust, does not expect much new from Powell this week. “I’m really targeting Jackson Hole as the most likely candidate for a pivot point for policy and communication,” he said. “However, next week’s meeting could set the stage for that with some statements that point us toward some improvement in the economy. They’ll be highlighting the new risks of the delta variant, and that’s the risk we think they point out.”
Slowing the bond program is important since it is a signal that the Fed is on the road to reversing its easy policies, including ultimately its zero policy rate. Tilley said the central bank will probably take a year to wind down its $120 billion a month in bond purchases, and then the door is open to rate hikes.
Investors will also be watching the second quarter GDP to see how much strength there is in the economy.
According to CNBC/Moody’s Analytics rapid update, a survey of economists expects second-quarter growth to grow by an average of 9.7%. It is expected to be the peak period for growth, and the average forecast for third-quarter growth is 8.3%.
Tilley said he expects growth for the 2021 year of 7% to 7.5%.
Week ahead calendar
10:00 a.m. New home sales
Fed begins a 2-day meeting
Earnings: Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, 3M, Visa, Advanced Micro Devices, General Electric, Boston Scientific, PulteGroup, Raytheon, JetBlue, Archer Daniels Midland, Chubb, Mondelez, Starbucks, Hawaiian Holdings, Waste Management, Corning, Sherwin-Williams, UPS, Stanley Black and Decker, Teradyne, Cheesecake Factory
- 8:30 a.m. Durable goods
- 9:00 a.m. FHFA home prices
- 9:00 a.m. Case-Shiller home prices
- 10:00 a.m. Consumer confidence
Earnings: Boeing, Facebook, Pfizer, Ford, Qualcomm, McDonald’s, Bristol-Myers Squibb, PayPal, General Dynamics, GlaxoSmithKline, Norfolk Southern, Automatic Data, CME Group, Garmin, Moody’s, Steve Madden, Penske Auto Group, Hess, Aflac, Canadian Pacific Railway, Fortune Brands, Samsung
- 8:30 a.m. Advance economic indicators
- 2:00 p.m. Fed statement
- 2:30 p.m. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell briefing
Earnings: Amazon, Merck, Comcast, Airbus, Anheuser-Busch InBev, MasterCard, Intercontinental Exchange, AstraZeneca, Hilton Worldwide, Northrop Grumman, Altria, Hershey, Yum Brands, American Tower, Gilead Sciences, Pinterest, Deckers Outdoors, First Solar, Beazer Homes, U.S. Steel, Molson Coors Brewing, Southern Co., Tempur Sealy, Textron, Nielsen, Valero Energy, Martin Marietta Materials
- 8:30 a.m. Unemployment claims
- 8:30 a.m. Q2 GDP
- 10:00 a.m. Pending home sales
Earnings: Caterpillar, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, AbbVie, Booz Allen, Lazard, Church & Dwight, Johnson Controls, Illinois Tool Works, Cabot Oil & Gas, CBOE Global Markets
- 8:30 a.m. Personal consumption expenditures
- 8:30 a.m. Employment cost index Q2
- 9:00 a.m. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard
- 9:45 a.m. Chicago PMI
- 10:00 a.m. Consumer sentiment
- 8:30 p.m. Fed Governor Lael Brainard