John J. Edwards III
In the absence of big economic reports -- none came out Friday -- Wall Streeters listen to the
. And sometimes it's not altogether clear what they're hearing.
The Fed's biggest voice, that of septuagenarian newlywed (and chairman)
, echoed loud and deep down the Street's concrete canyons. If only anyone knew what the fellow was talking about.
As noted in Friday's
Midday Musings, Greenspan's Thursday night speech was a masterly exercise in misdirection in the guise of direction. He said the Fed remains certain it was right to raise short-term interest rates March 25, but what of the likelihood of a hike May 20? The great man took several pages to say, essentially, "Maybe yes, maybe no."
"I thought there was enough ambiguity in that
speech to give a little bit for everyone," said Stephen Roach, chief economist at
But if Greenspan remains concerned about the rationality of the market's exuberance, the Thursday night address did little to help his case, Roach said. "These are very bullish markets, and you've got to club them over the head to get them to move down," he said. "You give them a little bit of ambiguity and they'll rally."
So it was. The markets were choppy all day Friday, but they ended in positive territory. The yield on the bellwether 30-year Treasury bond eased to 6.88%.
As for next week, it's stuffed with important reports. Roach said he's most looking forward to
April retail sales
(Tuesday), which he expects to come in down 0.2% for the total figure and up 0.3% for the nonauto figure. The consensus estimates call for a flat total figure and a 0.2% increase in nonauto sales. Other big reports include the
Producer Price Index
Consumer Price Index
(all times EDT):
CNW Auto Sales Trak
(10 a.m.): Gauging car sales for May 1 through 10.
(1 p.m.): $15.0 billion in three- and six-month bills; $20.065 billion maturing.