Updated from Aug. 16
The power failure that laid low the Northeastern U.S. last week might have taken the concept of August dog days to absurd lengths, but enough economic and corporate news is on the docket for the next five sessions to keep the torpor from lasting.
The sessions, it should be noted, are expected to begin as usual Monday morning, according to New York City officials. "Wall Street tomorrow morning, a normal day," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. The
New York Stock Exchange
operated on emergency power Friday, but with many traders unable or unwilling to reach Lower Manhattan, volume on both the Big Board and
was extremely thin.
By midday Saturday, the city's subways were back in operation and officials predicted no logistical problems for the Monday rush hour.
Coming off a week in which the
added a little more than 1% each and the
added 3.5%, the major averages remain snugly within a trading range that stretches back to roughly the beginning of June. Far more eventful has been the bond market, where the yield on the 10-year Treasury last week touched a 12-month high before settling at 4.52% Friday, about 150 basis points above its early June low.
While explanations abound for the rise in yields, the simplest -- that economic recovery is in the offing -- remains the easiest to believe, and that could make it another tough week in the fixed-income markets. For a variety of reasons, the week's highest-profile economic reading, July home starts, is likely to be strong, and strong economic news has repeatedly sparked bond selloffs over the last few weeks. Real estate continues to be among the hottest asset classes in the country,and with the aforementioned runup in bond yields lifting mortgage rates, consumers spent much of July locking in low interest rates.
While housing has been a bright spot for the economy over the last two years, the end of the trend was visible in a report last Wednesday from the Mortgage Bankers Association showing home-loan applications fell more than 16% in the previous week, as 30-year mortgages climbed above 6%. Investors have been taking the worry out on homebuilders, as well, with big names like
all down about 10% from their late June highs.
The Street consensus is for housing starts to have fallen to an annualized pace of about 1.79 million in July from June's scorching 1.80 million. The report comes out Tuesday.
Another major government report due Tuesday could conceivably bring pain to bonds -- the Treasury Department's latest calculation of the federal budget balance. A deficit of about $60 billion is expected, but the number has been volatile this year due to the cost of the Iraq war and the Bush administration tax cuts. Concern the government is spending beyond its means has also occasionally been proffered as a reason for the Treasury selloff,and a higher-than-expected deficit could drive up yields further.
Also due Tuesday is the blackout-delayed University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, which is expected to come in around 92.
On the corporate side, two companies whose fortunes are at least tangentially tied to the real estate market,
, publish earnings. Lowe's, which reports Monday, is up about 40% since the beginning of March, roughly double the gain in the S&P 500, while Home Depot, which reports Tuesday, is up nearly 60%.
Home Depot faltered at the beginning of August but rose about 3% last week on the heels of some positive research, including a UBS Warburg note that argued investors were weighting its exposure to the housing market too highly. "At least in the near-term, we expect signs of internal success to remain significantly more important to the Home Depot investment story than changes in the macro environment," the brokerage wrote.
Both companies might also benefit from consumers looking homeward after the blackout; both have a big hand in gas-powered generators. According to Thomson First Call, Home Depot is expected to earn 54 cents a share on revenue of $17.65 billion in the second quarter, while Lowe's is expected to earn 69 cents a share on revenue of $8.51 billion.
A number of other retailers report earnings this week, including
The week's biggest technology story could be
earnings, due out Tuesday. A solid second quarter from Dell Thursday led research shop Gartner Group to raise its estimate of worldwide PC shipments to 39.8 million units in the third quarter of 2003, a 9.6% increase over the third quarter of 2002. Gartner had been expecting sales to grow by 8%.
Hewlett-Packard is expected to earn 26 cents a share in its third quarter on revenue of $17.46 billion.