The Federal Reserve will be the underlying current fueling market activity in the coming week as questions over the interest rate hike timelines remain a constant.
All economic releases in the week ahead will be filtered through that lens of whether the U.S. economic recovery warrants another rate hike sooner rather than later. Two prime concerns are consumer prices and industrial production for July, both of which will be released on Tuesday. That key data will spotlight inflation pressures and manufacturing activity in the U.S.
"While next week's economic calendar is fairly light, (the data releases) are likely to put the focus back on when/if the Fed might raise rates again," Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Schwab Center for Financial Research, told TheStreet. "We continue to favor December, which currently shows a 41% chance, and because it comes after the elections."
Recent economic data has shown a rebound from a sluggish start to the year, with the consumer continuing to drive growth and the headwinds of a strong U.S. dollar and weak international demand beginning to recede from the manufacturing sector.
Stronger economic data has increased the chances of a rate hike from the Fed. The likelihood of a September rate hike currently sits at 12%, while December has much higher chances at 38%, according to CME's fed funds futures. The minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's July meeting will be released Wednesday afternoon.
Fedspeak will also be closely watched in the coming week for clues as to a rate-hike timeline. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart will make a speech to the Rotary Club in Knoxville, Tenn., on Tuesday, followed by a Q&A; St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will speak on the economy and monetary policy on Wednesday; and San Francisco Fed President John Williams will detail his economic outlook on Thursday.
Also on the economic calendar are the Empire State Manufacturing Survey and housing market index for August, to be released on Monday; housing starts for July on Tuesday; and the Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey for August on Thursday.
Stragglers of the earnings season will report their quarterly performance in the coming week. Just over 90% of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings so far this season, with most exceeding lowered estimates.
On the earnings calendar, Sysco (SYY - Get Report) and Vipshop (VIPS - Get Report) will report on Monday; BHP Billiton (BHP) , Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS - Get Report) , Home Depot (HD - Get Report) , TJX (TJX - Get Report) and Urban Outfitters (URBN - Get Report) on Tuesday; Agilent Technologies (A - Get Report) , American Eagle Outfitters (AEO - Get Report) , Analog Devices (ADI - Get Report) , Action Alerts PLUS holding Cisco (CSCO - Get Report) , L Brands (LB - Get Report) , Lowes (LOW - Get Report) , Staples (SPLS) and Target (TGT - Get Report) on Wednesday; Applied Materials (AMAT - Get Report) , Gap (GPS - Get Report) and Walmart (WMT - Get Report) on Thursday; and Deere (DE - Get Report) and Foot Locker (FL - Get Report) on Friday.
Even with a number of market movers on the horizon, stocks are likely to remain range-bound following small gains that lifted benchmark indices to records in recent days.
"In the near-term, I continue to believe the SPX will remain mostly in a sideways pattern (from about 2160-2185), with lower than average volatility," Frederick commented. "While a rebound in oil prices back to the mid-$40's or above on WTI crude could provide some lift to equities, very high equity valuations and a market that is already at record highs mean additional upside is likely to remain very limited, even as downside risk also remains relatively low."
The S&P 500 scored a new record close of 2,185.78 on Thursday afternoon after a massive rally in crude oil and better-than-expected quarterly performance from the retail space helped to drive the the benchmark index to new highs. The Nasdaq and Dow Jones Industrial Average also closed Thursday at new record highs. It was the first time since 1999 that all three benchmark indices closed at records at once. The Nasdaq also hit a new record high on Friday and closed out with its seventh weekly gain in a row.