Last week wasn't one you really want to write home about.
Fed's interest-rate cut of 50 basis points, which should have been a highlight, turned out to be a nonevent. The days leading up to the announcement were full of anticipation, with volume on the lighter side as investors awaited the blessed words from
Big Al and his buddies.
But when the results of the
Federal Open Market Committee meeting were released a little after 2 p.m. Wednesday, the market didn't raise its hands in praise, but practically sat on its hands, having already
fully priced in the cut. The Street seemed to want even more and reacted like a spoiled child when it didn't get it, with the
66 points on the news.
On Thursday, the market ended up getting some lift out of the
FOMC minutes from its December meeting, but that was followed up with a painful selloff on Friday. The bloodletting was fueled by a
mixed jobs report, which showed that while unemployment hit a high not seen since September 1999, nonfarm payrolls grew by 268,000 when only 83,000 had been expected.
So, how do you follow up that kind of skittish market behavior? How about with a nap?
earnings releases are winding down and major
economic news is on the lighter side, so investors can take this time to reflect, regroup or sit in the lotus position and meditate. OK, well, maybe not the whole week. They'll definitely want to peek at the screen a couple of times.
Investors likely will snap to attention on Tuesday, when
releases its second-quarter results. The networking company is known for beating estimates by a penny, but the Street's a little concerned this time.
The normally unflappable company took a bit of a beating earlier last week on
comments from CEO John Chambers, who said business in January had been "a little bit slow."
World Economic Forum
in Davos, Switzerland, Chambers said, "The business momentum of most of my customers was very tough in December, and equally tough in January."
Phil Dow, managing director at
Dain Rauscher Wessels
, said investors will be watching the release closely, because if Cisco beats estimates, it bodes well not just for other tech companies, but for the market in general.
"I think that people would infer from a positive Cisco report that there's only one more quarter to worry about," Dow said.
And not everything Chambers said was negative. He also said that 30% to 50% sales growth over the long term "is probably a bit conservative right now." If that growth is realized -- and sustained -- he could meet his goal of making Cisco a $100 billion company by 2005.
Dow said what Chambers needs to do now is show off Cisco's new optical products aimed at the telecom industry and tout the big contracts it has on the horizon.
But Cisco's not the only company attracting attention next week.
Another heavyweight scheduled to report is
. On Thursday, the long-distance telephone company will post its fourth-quarter earnings, which are expected to come in at 41 cents a share. The stock has suffered in the past year, falling more than 50% in the telco and tech selloff. It's also been affected by warnings or worries from such related companies as
The economic news that will have the biggest effect on the market next week is the
productivity and unit labor costs report for the fourth quarter. The productivity number, which measures the changes in workers' output per hour, is expected to increase by only 2.3%. The unit labor costs figure measures the labor cost per unit of output. The market likes to see increased productivity and slower unit labor costs (this implies that inflation is in check); it dislikes the opposite.
Dow said the market should respond favorably to any productivity increase above 2%.
There's still other news coming out, which will attract some attention, but may not sway the market much.
On Monday, the
Purchasing Managers' Non-Manufacturing Index
for January comes out. It's the sister gauge of the
Purchasing Managers' Index. Both indices signal expansion when they're above 50 and contraction when below. The nonmanufacturing number measures service-sector activity. The number's been on the slide since September, when it came in at 62. Last month, it was down to 53.
Earnings to watch for that day are
. PepsiCo's fourth-quarter results are expected to come in at 33 cents a share, while Computer Sciences' third quarter is supposed to hit 66 cents a share.
Then Thursday sees the reappearance of the weekly
initial jobless claims number, which is considered a good gauge of labor market conditions and a good indicator of the tone of the market. Last week, the report showed that the number seeking unemployment benefits for the first time rose to 346,000 for the week ended Jan. 27. It's at its highest level since the end of last year. Economists had expected 15,000 fewer. The four-week moving average fell to 327,000 from 335,500.
Peter Coolidge, managing director of trading at
Brean Murray Foster Securities
, said last week revolved around the Fed lowering interest rates, but next week will be totally different. He said that with the Fed announcement behind them, investors will start looking at the longer-term perspective, taking into account that it's going to take a while to see the continued effects of the rate cuts.
"It's going to take some time before consumer confidence can be restored and until earnings and revenue start to trend up or excel," Coolidge said.