Stocks' rally last week ended after Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said the rate hikes will continue, trumping a rookie Fed governor who suggested otherwise. This week, traders are hoping that a new set of monthly economic data may change his mind and push stocks higher. On Tuesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release one of the more volatile economic numbers of the week, the producer price index. Wall Street analysts expect a contraction of about 0.2% in May, following a huge jump of 0.6% in April. Also on Tuesday, the Commerce Department will report retail sales activity for May. Analysts are forecasting a slight decline of 0.2% in the overall figure, and a 0.2% increase in sales excluding autos. "The largest influence to the total level of retail sales is autos, and the overall sales pace wasn't as bleak as the year-over-year comparisons suggested," says Rich Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research, who projects a drop of 0.3% in total retail sales activity for May, and a 0.4% gain the ex-auto figure. The May CPI report arrives on Wednesday, and economists say this could be the biggest market-mover of the week due to its impact on the fixed income market, where long-term yields have finally begun to rise. Wall Street expects a gain of about 0.1% in the headline figure, and a 0.2% increase in the core rate. "Anecdotal evidence continues to support a higher trend," says Yamarone. "Several businesses, predominantly on the local level, like pizza parlors, flower delivery and taxi cab services, have imposed fuel-related surcharges, and these increases are sticking." The Federal Reserve's industrial production report for May will be released a little later in the morning on Wednesday. During April, output at U.S. plants and factories fell 0.2%, following a paltry 0.1% increase in March. Economists are forecasting an increase of 0.2% for May despite the fact that several manufacturing barometers signaled weakness last month, including the New York Fed's Empire State Survey, the Philadelphia Fed's Business Outlook Survey and the Chicago-area PMI.
Housing starts for May arrive on Thursday before the bell. On the earnings front, investment banks will dominate a light yet intriguing week. Analysts have recently been lowering their earnings estimates for Wall Street's biggest players on fears that their big proprietary trading businesses -- now a major component of their overall operations -- may be struggling. On Monday, Warner Music ( WMG) will report its first set of quarterly results as a public company. According to Thomson Financial, the lone analyst covering the company to date has an earnings estimate of 24 cents. Warner shares were priced at $17 for the company's IPO last month, but then immediately fell below $16. They have recently traded back near their offering price. Tuesday promises to be interesting on the earnings front with a mix of retailers, software and brokerage companies taking the stage. Among the companies set to report are Atari ( ATAR), Best Buy ( BBY - Get Report), BMC Software ( BMC) and Pier 1 Imports ( PIR - Get Report). Lehman Brothers ( LEH) releases earnings on Tuesday as well. Analysts are looking for the investment bank to earn $2.23 a share, up from $2.01 last year, on revenue of $3.22 billion. Hot on the heels of Lehman's quarterly update, Bear Stearns ( BSC) will release results on Wednesday. Analysts are forecasting that the big Bear will earn $2.37, down from $2.49 in the year-ago period, on sales of $1.71 billion. Stylish clothing retailer Tommy Hilfiger ( TOM) and another recent IPO, investment bank Lazard ( LAZ - Get Report), will also be reporting on Wednesday.
Thursday's lineup also shapes up to be intriguing as Goldman Sachs ( GS - Get Report) reports its results. Analysts estimate the investment bank's fiscal second-quarter per-share earnings will be $1.99, down from $2.31 last year, on revenue of $5.19 billion. Other big names reporting on Thursday include Winnebago ( WGO), KB Home ( KBH - Get Report) and Adobe Systems ( ADBE). Electronics retailer Circuit City ( CC - Get Report) reports its first-quarter earnings next Friday. But even if these companies exceed their estimates, some traders on Wall Street say it might not jump-start the flagging market. "The prevailing thought was that the rate hikes were coming to an end, but Greenspan seemed to nix that idea last week," says Randy Diamond, sales trader at Miller Tabak. "That has killed the momentum in the markets created by the good news from the likes of Intel ( INTC) and Texas Instruments ( TXN)."