Economics and earnings may briefly take a back seat to politics in the coming week as Americans head to the polls Tuesday.
"It's all about the election," says Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment officer at Windham Financial. "Wall Street is anxiously waiting to see if the Democrats can retake control over all or part of Congress."
Recent polls suggest the Democrats could find themselves with a majority in both houses Wednesday morning for the first time in 12 years, though they have much ground to make up. A strong Democratic showing, says Mendelsohn, could make for a volatile trading session on Wednesday, as traders readjust their positions in the face of a new political reality. Some observers say defense and healthcare plays could be particularly vulnerable to selling should Congress change hands.
But others downplay the importance of Tuesday's outcome, citing Republican control of the White House.
"The benefits -- or negatives -- of a Dem-controlled legislature would not be felt until 2009, with President Bush still in charge of the executive branch," says Randy Diamond, sales trader at Miller Tabak. "And only then if they win the presidency as well." He forecasts "little reaction" if the Republicans maintain control.
The bulk of earnings season may be over, but a host of heavy-hitting companies will be stepping up to the plate anyway.
The market will hear on Monday from the likes of
XM Satellite Radio
will broadcast its results on Monday as well. Analysts expect the company to lose 46 cents a share, an improvement from last year's loss of 60 cents, on revenue of $235 million.
On Tuesday, companies reporting results include
Among the companies reporting Wednesday are
Federated Department Stores
Also reporting after the close Wednesday will be
, which rallied furiously in August off stronger-than-expected 2007 guidance in last quarter's earnings call. This time around, Cisco is expected to make 29 cents a share on sales of $7.9 billion.
Thursday's big names include
. Shares in both companies are up strongly this year.
Friday's line-up highlights international companies, such as
Nippon Telegraph & Telephone
After last week's data deluge, capped off by Friday's surprising October jobs report, the coming week will be fairly light on economic releases.
Last Friday, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 92,000 nonfarm jobs were formed in October, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.4% -- its lowest level since April 2001 -- from 4.6% the prior month. Economists had been estimating that 125,000 new positions were created outside the farm sector and that the jobless rate would stay unchanged.
However, more startling than the 33,000-job shortfall from last month was the upward revision to the previous two reports. The government said Friday an additional 139,000 jobs were created in August and September than had been originally reported.
"We believe it was a strong number, but the huge statistical revisions are causing a great deal of skepticism among market participants," says Gina Martin, economist at Wachovia.
The light economic calendar begins on Tuesday, with consumer credit data for September. Economists surveyed by Thomson First Call are looking for consumer credit to expand to $5 billion, up from $2.6 billion in August.
Thursday's economic reports include October export prices, ex-agriculture, as well as import prices, ex-oil. Also scheduled for Thursday is trade-balance data for September. Economists are looking for the nation's trade deficit to be $66 billion for the month, narrower than August's $69.9 billion.
Thursday's other big report will be wholesale inventories for September, which are expected to rise 0.6%, down from 1.1% growth in August.