With the earnings spigot thrown, all eyes will be on the financial statements of the banks and technology companies that traditionally usher in the quarterly reporting season next week. But even bigger business news could be made in Washington.
Alan Greenspan testifies on monetary policy before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the market, as usual, will be hanging on the
Federal Reserve chairman's every word.
"Greenspan is the most important event (this coming week)," said Asha Bangalore, an economist with Northern Trust. "The market is expecting him to say the Fed is on hold. If he gives another indication, you'll see a sharp reaction."
Most market watchers say that because Greenspan isn't expected to express any policy changes, earnings will become the primary focus once he completes his testimony.
But don't expect the market's volatility to end, experts say. Few are banking on the markets to hold a sustainable rally, even with solid economic news, until fears over continued corporate scandals and accounting missteps subside.
James Bianco of Bianco Research in Chicago said he's waiting for more company officials to reveal that they've been cooking the books. Following President Bush's
recent speech about how he wants to get tough on white collar crime and fraud, combined with the various pieces of legislation now before Congress, aimed at toughening criminal penalties for corporate misconduct, Bianco believes this is an "amnesty period."
"If you're cheating on your financials, better say it now because later it could mean jail time," Bianco said.
Some of the many companies releasing their earnings this week include
Even if some of these companies meet or beat earnings, some analysts don't expect to see investors rush to buy.
"The market is not cheap, so I'm expecting a tight trading range," said Alan Ackerman of Fahnestock. "For the short term, I'm expecting the market to be sloppy and choppy."
The market was certainly choppy this past week, but the bears clearly had the last say. For the week, the
closed down 5.2%, the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
lost 7.4%, and the
fell 6.9%. For both the Dow and the S&P, the week was the worst since the markets reopened following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Besides high valuations for companies, Ackerman said the fear of more corporate scandals and accounting shenanigans continues to hold investors back.
"Earnings are still suspect," he said. "It's what's behind the numbers. Wall Street investors will continue to remain cautious until something changes."
Economies of Scale
Corporate earnings won't be the only numbers that can influence the market direction in the coming week. Several economic reports also are on the calendar, including
industrial production for June. Monthly
housing starts data will be released, and the June figures should show a dip from May, analysts believe.
On Friday, the
consumer price index, an inflation indicator, is expected to show a 0.1% increase. Additionally, the
international trade report will offer an update on the levels of imports and exports in May.
Philadelphia Fed survey and the
business inventories report are also scheduled for release.
Though the market's recent volatility may be giving investors headaches, Bianco believes that it could indicate a change in direction.
"I always look at volatility as a market in transition, between a big selloff and an uptrend," he said. "I don't think the bear market is over, but it is setting up for a low similar to September. It's getting very oversold."