To Vinny Catalano, chief investment strategist at Blue Marble Research, Wall Street is in the midst of a bear-market rally. "If you look at the price action, it looks like your classic 'two steps forward, one step back' that usually leads to another drop," he says. "I'd expect more drifting around with an upward bias for the rest of August," but "as we get into September and October, things get dicier." While he believes the problems with the financials are far from over, others are watching small-caps and mid-caps, which have been leading the market of late but may be showing signs of tiring. Catalano points out that "recently, mid-cap growth has begun to falter," perhaps a signal that the sector is losing steam. But Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research, notes that "the uptrend that started in July looks to be still in place, even though we're in the summer doldrums," largely because "small-cap and technology had a huge week
last week, on top of big gains" in the prior week. The major averages were mixed, and ultimately little changed, last week. The main economic news for the coming week will be Tuesday, with the producer price index from the Department of Labor offering another read on inflation. However, even though the consumer price index came in surprisingly high last week and the PPI may do the same, the markets may worry less than usual because the prices of oil and other commodities have come down so much of late. Crude alone is down under $115, well off its recent high of more than $140.
The declines in that area have been fueled, of course, by the renewed strength in the U.S. dollar. "We're seeing recognition of the troubles in Europe and the increased risk of recession. So a relief rally
in the dollar based on the view of the U.S. being the 'best house in a bad neighborhood' underscores euro weakness more than anything else," says Greg Collins, chief executive of Fountain Hill Investments. He says the global banking system is still broken after having been stressed for years by actions such as a flood of cheap money from the Federal Reserve and "rampant speculation," largely in the credit markets. "The recent crash in the commodities is another example of the deflationary forces this market will ultimately have to endure on a larger scale as a day of reckoning for the excess approaches," Collins asserts. Also on the economic docket Tuesday, the Census Bureau will send out July data on housing starts and building permits. "Housing starts is almost an irrelevant number, because the inventory is so large," Catalano says. "Housing in general really needs to continue to have price clear the inventory." He expects it to take nine to 12 months before the inventories can get down to manageable levels, to where the starts number becomes meaningful again. The pace of earnings reports is slowing down, but there will still be a few big companies to note -- including Dow components Home Depot ( HD) and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), which come out Tuesday. Much of the action will be with retailers. Home Depot's rival home-improvement outfit, Lowe's ( LOW), reports on Monday. On Tuesday, Saks ( SKS) and Target ( TGT) are out. Wednesday, Ross Stores ( ROST) and Limited ( LTD) make their announcements, while Thursday brings Barnes & Noble ( BKS) and Aeropostale ( ARO), and Friday ushers in Ann Taylor ( ANN). Other notable earnings reports will come from BHP Billiton ( BHP) and Trina Solar ( TSL) on Monday, Medtronic ( MDT) on Tuesday, and Burger King ( BKC) and HJ Heinz ( HNZ) on Thursday. An item to watch next week is the start of a five-week cycle for options expiration, which Detrick of Schaeffer's says is often bearish. Also, Collins of Fountain Hill, who likes to watch Goldman Sachs ( GS) as an indicator of market direction, notes that the brokerage firm's stock is "hovering above some pretty key levels just north of $150," so it could be a good one to follow in the days ahead.