The Fed has dominated traders' attention so far this summer, but the start of second-quarter earnings reports in the coming week means the market will finally be able to shift its focus. But traders say "out of sight" does not mean "out of mind" when it comes to the economy and the Fed. "Wall Street is trying to forecast when the Fed might pause or finally halt its higher rate policy," says Robert Pavlik, chief investment officer at Oaktree Asset Management. "While corporate earnings do not directly affect interest rates, signs of slower corporate profit growth will be interpreted as the rate hikes having the effect that the Fed desires." The earnings parade unofficially starts Monday with Dow component Alcoa's ( AA) release of its second-quarter results. According to Thomson First Call, analysts expect the aluminum giant to post earnings of 85 cents a share, up from 46 cents a year earlier, on revenue of $7.98 billion. On Tuesday, the earnings lineup includes the likes of Pepsi Bottling Group ( PBG) and Ruby Tuesday ( RI). Biotech giant Genentech ( DNA) will be in the spotlight Tuesday afternoon with its earnings report. Analysts are calling for a profit of 47 cents a share, up from 30 cents last year, and $2.12 billion in revenue. The earnings pace picks up on Wednesday, with Commerce Bancshares ( CBSH), Gannett ( GCI) and Infosys Technologies ( INFY) releasing results. Other companies scheduled to report on Wednesday include Sealy ( ZZ), Tekelec ( TKLC) and Wolverine World Wide ( WWW). Thursday will be the busiest day of the week on the earnings front, with a lineup featuring Cintas ( CTAS), Marriott ( MAR) and Pepsi ( PEP). Tribune ( TRB) will also be announcing results on Thursday. Analysts expect the newspaper company to report a profit of 56 cents a share, down from 60 cents last year, on sales of $1.46 billion. Friday's earnings highlight will be General Electric's ( GE) second-quarter report. The conglomerate is expected to post a profit of 47 cents a share, up from 41 cents a year ago, on $39.53 billion in revenue.
"Next week is all about earnings. With the economy showing signs of slowing due to higher energy prices and the Federal Reserve's policy of ratcheting up interest rates, investors are searching for investments which can sustain earnings growth and continue to perform well," says Pavlik. "At the same time, they are looking to potentially unload shares in companies who have been hit hard by higher rates and energy prices."
On Wednesday, the May trade balance will be released. Economists predict the deficit will widen to $65 billion from $63.4 billion in April. The June Treasury Budget will be announced at 2 p.m. Thursday. Economists expect the budget will be $20 billion, down from $22.9 billion in May. Traders better not jet off to the Hamptons too early on Friday, because the economic data will be flying fast and furious. Business inventories for May are expected to increase 0.4%, the same as the month before. Meanwhile, retail sales for June will be released, and are expected to rise 0.4%. Retail sales excluding autos are anticipated to rise 0.5%, on par with May's increase. The preliminary Michigan consumer sentiment index also arrives on Friday. Economists expect the index to rise to 85.3 from 84.9 in June. In addition, June import prices excluding oil and export prices excluding agriculture will hit the tape.