Big week ahead on Wall Street
One year after Lehman Brothers, the stock market is right back where it was. Beyond the anniversary, reports on the consumer loom.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Reports of the stock rally's demise have been greatly exaggerated, with September so far managing to eschew a much-predicted selloff. A torrent of economic news this week could turn the tide.
On the economic front, the consumer will remain front and center: Reports are due on inflation, retail sales, housing and jobless claims. These reports are key as investors look for signs that the consumer -- hit by rising joblessness, lost wealth and tighter credit -- is starting to recover.
Consumer spending fuels two-thirds of economic growth. Government stimulus and a period of inventory building are expected to help the economy for the next few quarters, but experts say the U.S. is at risk for a double-dip recession by this time next year if spending doesn't return.
"The week is likely to be a competition between better economic news for August and the start of the quarterly pre-announcement period," said John Canally, Economist at LPL Financial.
Investors will also keep an eye this week on the dollar, which is sitting near a one-year low versus the euro and nine-month low against the yen. The falling dollar has helped push the price of gold to a record high of $1006.50. Meanwhile, crude oil prices are back around $69 a barrel.
The news this week will also compete for investor focus with the one-year anniversary of one of the grimmest periods in Wall Street history: the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
One-year later: Last September, the collapse of Lehman and shotgun wedding buyout of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America turned a recession into a full-blown economic crisis on a level not seen since the 1930s.
Through extraordinary efforts on the part of the U.S. government and central bankers and financial ministers around the world, a so-called second Great Depression was avoided.
Relief that the crisis was contained -- combined with massive amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus -- have enabled stocks to recover over the past six months.
Since bottoming in March at 12-year lows, the S&P 500 has rallied 54% and the Dow 47%. The Nasdaq bottomed at a six-year low and has gained 64%.
Back at '08 levels: But the rally, sharp though it has been, has merely returned the major indexes to right where they were a few weeks after Lehman's collapse. Wall Street's mood is also roughly back to where it was right before the collapse.
The CBOE Volatility index, or the VIX, Wall Street's fear gauge, closed Friday at the lowest point since Sept. 8, 2008. Typically, the VIX and the stock market move in opposite directions.
Despite calls for a fall selloff, stocks have so far managed to hang on to gains this month and even move higher.
"What's interesting is that the economy was worse a year ago and the market was higher than it is now, which suggests we still have room for stocks to keep rising," said Paul Brigandi, vice president of trading at Direxion Funds.
On the downside, trading volume has been light, Wall Street insiders have been selling and so-called average investors have been pulling money out of stock and stock mutual funds.
Tracker Trim Tabs said equity mutual funds and ETFs are on track to post the first monthly outflows since March.
Investors who have remained on the fence or who have cashed out will sort through the next wave of economic news for confirmation that a recovery is brewing or that the market has way outpaced any stabilization.
Monday: One day ahead of the Tuesday anniversary of Lehman's bankruptcy filing, President Obama will speak in New York about the steps his administration has taken to try to contain the crisis and prevent that kind of collapse from happening again.
Tuesday: August retail sales are due in the morning from the Commerce Department. Sales are expected to have risen 1.9% after falling 0.1% in July, according to a Briefing.com survey of economists. Sales excluding autos are expected to have risen 0.4% after falling 0.6% in July.
The Producer Price index, a measure of wholesale inflation, is expected to have risen 0.8% in August after falling 0.9% in July. The so-called Core PPI, which strips out volatile food and energy costs, is expected to have risen 0.1% after falling 0.1% in August.
The Empire State manufacturing index for September is also due before the start of trading. The index is expected to have risen to 15 from 12.8 in the previous month.
A report on business inventories is also due during the day, but it is not typically a market mover.
Wednesday: The Consumer Price index, a measure of consumer inflation, is due in the morning. CPI is expected to have risen 0.3% in August after showing no change in July. The so-called core CPI is expected to have risen 0.1% after rising 0.1% in July.
August capacity utilization and industrial production are also due in the morning, along with the weekly oil inventory report.
Thursday: August housing starts and building permits are due from the Commerce Department. Starts and permits had dipped in July after showing some improvement in June. Investors will be looking to see some stabilization in the August numbers.
The weekly jobless claims numbers from the Labor Department are also due on Thursday. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment is expected to have risen to 555,000 from 550,000 in the previous week.
Continuing claims, a measure of those receiving benefits for a week or more, is expected to have risen to 6.114 million from 6.088 million in the previous week.
The Philadelphia Fed index for September is also due.
Friday: The federal government will release state-by-state employment reports for August.
Friday is also the quadruple options expiration, a quarterly event when stock index futures and options, and individual stock futures and options are all expiring at the same time. That can create volatility in the days leading up to the expiration and the day of the expiration.
Tuesday: Best Buy (BBY, Fortune 500) is expected to report quarterly earnings of 41 cents per share in the morning versus 48 cents a year ago, according to a consensus of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.
After the close, software maker Adobe Systems (ADBE) is expected to report quarterly earnings of 34 cents per share versus 50 cents a year ago.
Last week, FedEx boosted its forecast to 58 cents per share versus an earlier call for a profit of 44 cents per share, due to stronger international results and cost cutting. The package delivery firm earned $1.23 per share a year ago.
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