Market Focus for the Week: The first wave of quarterly financial results has come and gone, and it appears investors have liked what they've seen. As a bigger batch of companies open their books next week, corporate earnings will continue to remain in focus. Of the 137 S&P 500 companies that have already posted results, about 75% have beat earnings and sales estimates, according to Thomson Reuters. Profits have climbed by more than 18%, while revenues have increased 2% from a year ago.
New Home Sales: New home sales measure the number of newly constructed homes with a committed sale during the month. The consensus estimate is for 280,000 units. This is a significant increase from February's 250,000. What it means to you: This provides a gauge of not only the demand for housing, but the economic momentum. By tracking economic data such as new home sales, investors can gain specific investment ideas as well as broad guidance for managing a portfolio.
ICSC Goldman Store Sales: This weekly measure of comparable store sales at major retail chains, published by the International Council of Shopping Centers, is related to the general merchandise portion of retail sales. It accounts for roughly 10 percent of total retail sales. What it means to you: Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, so if you know what consumers are up to, you'll have a pretty good handle on where the economy is headed.
Redbook: A weekly measure of sales at chain stores, discounters, and department stores. It is a less consistent indicator of retail sales than the weekly ICSC index. What it means to you: The pattern in consumer spending is often the foremost influence on stock and bond markets.
S & P Case-Schiller: The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index tracks monthly changes in the value of residential real estate in 20 metropolitan regions across the U.S. The composite indexes and the regional indexes are seen by the markets as measuring changes in existing home prices and are based on single-family home resales. The indexes are based on single-family dwellings with two or more sales transactions. Condominiums and co-ops are excluded as is new construction. What it means to you: Home values affect much in the economy - especially the housing and consumer sectors. Periods of rising home values encourage new construction while periods of soft home prices can damp housing starts. Changes in home values play key roles in consumer spending and in consumer financial health. Many economists believe that the U.S. economy and especially the depressed housing sector will not recover until home prices firm back up. This makes watching home prices all the more important for the investor.
Consumer Confidence: The Conference Board compiles a survey of consumer attitudes on present economic conditions and expectations of future conditions. Three thousand households across the country are surveyed each month. The consensus estimate is for an increase from 63.4 to 65. What it means to you: Consumer spending drives two-thirds of the economy and if the consumer is not confident, the consumer will not be willing to pull out the big bucks. Confidence impacts consumer spending which affects economic growth.
State Street Investor Confidence: The State Street Investor Confidence Index measures confidence by looking at actual levels of risk in investment portfolios. This is not an attitude survey. The State Street Investor Confidence Index measures confidence directly by assessing the changes in investor holdings of equities. The more of their portfolio that institutional investors are willing to invest in equities, the greater their confidence. What it means to you: "State Street believes direct measurement, rather than a survey of portfolio managers who often don't have time to fill out monthly questionnaires, is a more reliable approach to consumer confidence. The investor confidence index is compiled with techniques based on modern portfolio theory. According to State Street, "the more of their portfolios that professional investors are willing to devote to riskier as opposed to safer investments, the greater their risk appetite or confidence."
2 Year Note Auction
Durable Goods Orders: Durable goods orders reflect the new orders placed with domestic manufacturers for immediate and future delivery of factory hard goods. The first release, the advance, provides an early estimate of durable goods orders. About two weeks later, more complete and revised data are available in the factory orders report. The data for the previous month are usually revised a second time upon the release of the new month's data. The Consensus Estimate is for a significant increase from a previous drop of .9% to up 1.9%. What it means to you: Durable goods orders tell investors what to expect from the manufacturing sector, a major component of the economy, and therefore a major influence on their investments. Orders for durable goods show how busy factories will be in the months to come, as manufacturers work to fill those orders. The data not only provide insight to demand for items such as refrigerators and cars, but also business investment such as industrial machinery, electrical machinery and computers. If companies commit to spending more on equipment and other capital, they are obviously experiencing sustainable growth in their business. Increased expenditures on investment goods set the stage for greater productive capacity in the country and reduce the prospects for inflation.
EIA Petroleum Report: The Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides weekly information on petroleum inventories in the U.S., whether produced here or abroad. The level of inventories helps determine prices for petroleum products. What it means to you: Petroleum product prices are determined by supply and demand - just like any other good and service. During periods of strong economic growth, one would expect demand to be robust. If inventories are low, this will lead to increases in crude oil prices - or price increases for a wide variety of petroleum products such as gasoline or heating oil.
FOMC Meeting Announcement: The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the policy-making arm of the Federal Reserve. It determines short-term interest rates in the U.S. when it decides the overnight rate that banks pay each other for borrowing reserves when a bank has a shortfall in required reserves. This rate is the fed funds rate. The FOMC also determines whether the Fed should add or subtract liquidity in credit markets separately from that related to changes in the fed funds rate. The consensus estimate is expected to leave the fed funds target rate unchanged. Fed watchers will focus on whether the statement has any language suggesting an early end to the second round of quantitative easing or whether a third round is being considered. Also, could rising concerns over inflation lead to the first dissenting vote for 2011? This meetings announcement has been moved up 2 hours. What it means to you: The interest rate set by the Fed, the federal funds rate, serves as a benchmark for all other rates. A change in the fed funds rate, the lending rate banks charge each other for the use of overnight funds, translates directly through to all other interest rates from Treasury bonds to mortgage loans. It also changes the dynamics of competition for investor dollars.
5 Year Note Auction
GDP: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the broadest measure of aggregate economic activity and encompasses every sector of the economy. The consensus estimate is for the quarter to quarter change is expected to rise 2% but the headline price index is expected to rise 2.2. What it means to you: Because Gross domestic product is the country's most comprehensive economic scorecard. GDP is the all-inclusive measure of economic activity. Market participants view increased expenditures on investment favorably because they expand the productive capacity of the country. This means that we can produce more without inciting inflationary pressures.
Weekly Jobless Claims: New unemployment claims are compiled weekly to show the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time. An increasing (decreasing) trend suggests a deteriorating (improving) labor market. The four-week moving average of new claims smoothes out weekly volatility. The consensus estimate is for a slight drop from 403,000 to 390,000. What it means to you: By tracking the number of jobless claims, investors can gain a sense of how tight, or how loose, the job market is. If wage inflation threatens, it's a good bet that interest rates will rise.
Pending Home Sales Index: The National Association of Realtors developed the pending home sales index as a leading indicator of housing activity. As such, it is a leading indicator of existing home sales, not new home sales. A pending sale is one in which a contract was signed, but not yet closed. What it means to you: This provides a gauge of not only the demand for housing, but the economic momentum. People have to be feeling pretty comfortable and confident in their own financial position to buy a house. Furthermore, this narrow piece of data has a powerful multiplier effect through the economy.
7 Year Note Auction
Dennis Lockhart (Atlanta Federal Reserve President) Speaks
FED Balance Sheet
Personal Income and Outlays: Personal income is the dollar value of income received from all sources by individuals. Personal outlays include consumer purchases of durable and nondurable goods, and services. The consensus estimate is for personal income to have risen .3% month over month (same last month). Consumer spending to have risen .5% month over month (less than last month's .7%). The core PCE index to be up .1% month over month (less than last month's .2%). What it means to you: The income and outlays data are another handy way to gauge the strength of the consumer sector in this economy and where it is headed. Income gives households the power to spend and/or save. Spending greases the wheels of the economy and keeps it growing. Savings are often invested in the financial markets and can drive up the prices of stocks and bonds. Even if savings simply go into a bank account, part of those funds typically is used by the bank for lending and therefore contributes to economic activity. Income is the major determinant of spending -- U.S. consumers spend roughly 95 cents of each new dollar. Consumer spending accounts directly for more than two-thirds of overall economic activity and indirectly influences capital spending, inventory investment and imports.
Chicago PMI: Manufacturing and non-manufacturing firms are both surveyed. Hence, it is not directly comparable to pure manufacturing surveys. Readings above 50 percent indicate an expanding business sector. The consensus estimate is for a slight drop from70.6 to 68. What it means to you: The Chicago PMI gives a detailed look at the Chicago region's manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors. Many market players don't realize that non-manufacturing activity is covered in this index and tend to focus on the manufacturing side only. On its own, it can be viewed as a regional indicator of general business activity.
Consumer Sentiment: The University of Michigan's Consumer Survey Center questions 500 households each month on their financial conditions and attitudes about the economy. Consumer sentiment is directly related to the strength of consumer spending. Consumer confidence and consumer sentiment are two ways of talking about consumer attitudes. The consensus estimate is to remain the same at 69.6. What it means to you: Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, so the markets are always dying to know what consumers are up to and how they might behave in the near future. The more confident consumers are about the economy and their own personal finances, the more likely they are to spend. With this in mind, it's easy to see how this index of consumer attitudes gives insight to the direction of the economy.
Ben Bernanke (Federal Reserve Chairman) Speaks