The focus on financials will heat up next week, as four of the country's biggest banks report earnings and provide some color on their expectations for the remainder of the year. Goldman Sachs ( GS) will kick off the
bank earnings rollercoaster on Tuesday, followed by JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) on Thursday and Bank of America ( BAC) and Citigroup ( C) on Friday. While it's clear that banks are still suffering through the deep recession, there's no clear consensus on where their bottom-line figures stand. For instance, the range of analyst expectations for Citi's second-quarter loss per share range from 76 cents to 5 cents, and JPMorgan per-share estimates range from a loss of 23 cents to a profit of 27 cents. JPMorgan big-cap bank analyst Vivek Juneja says he expects the results to be "weak and very messy." Although bank revenues have been supported by government programs, they are also coping with the reality of higher credit costs as consumers and businesses remain under stress. Given the uncertainty, along with reports from other big names like Intel ( INTC), Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ), Google ( GOOG) and General Electric ( GE), it could be a bumpy week. It would continue a trend begun this week, when Alcoa ( AA) reported better-than-expected results on Wednesday, followed by a warning from oil major Chevron ( CVX) on Thursday. As a result, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the week down 1.6%, after trading in a range of more than 300 points during the five sessions. "The consensus out there is it's going to be pretty weak and dismal for the second quarter," says Larry Rosenthal, a financial planner and founder of advising firm Financial Planning Services, who doesn't believe banks will have a repeat performance of shocking first-quarter profits. "I think for the last 90 days people have been very cautiously optimistic and I think that sentiment has become more and more bearish recently."
On the other hand, Michael Cuggino, portfolio manager of the Permanent Portfolio Family of Funds, thinks that the financial sector will be "relatively healthy earnings-wise," due to the low cost of funds and ample access to capital to cover credit losses. He will be keeping an eye on statements from top executives in the financial sector and elsewhere for clues on how far off a recovery may be. Some economic data on the calendar for next week include the producer price index and retail sales on Tuesday, followed by consumer prices, industrial production statistics and minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday and housing starts and building permits on Friday. Concerns about impending inflation seem to have eased, so the price indices and Fed comments may not be a big surprise -- as long as they indicate weak pricing and a continuation of low rates. Likewise, retail sales, industrial production and housing data are all expected to be soft again. But according to a report on Friday by economists at Bank of America, investors will be reading between the lines, hoping to see indications of a stronger second-half. "U.S. economic indicators look set to confirm a gradual recovery trend," write Riccardo Barbieri and Mai Doan, "while the market searches for clues about the future path of policy in the FOMC minutes and the Fed's new forecasts." But there may not be many surprises coming out of Washington, D.C. Any changes to the Fed rates are expected to be far off in the distance. The government's plans for economic stimulus and banking recovery have largely been unveiled, even if some are still being negotiated. Since the downturn is well under way, many investors will be focused on earnings and forecasts to determine just how bad things have gotten, and when they might start to improve. "If you have a surprise it's going to throw people for a loop," says Cuggino. "But people are looking to confirm what they already expect."