The bull market turned eight last Thursday, but the birthday celebration was muted. As the stock market bubble continues to inflate and political tensions rise, investors are holding their collective breath.
Will the long-awaited correction come this year or can the market dodge the inevitable until 2018 or even 2019? Another concern is whether the Trump presidency will fulfill its business-oriented promises or end in disaster.
As you navigate this tumultuous investment climate, your watchwords should be prudence and caution. Capital appreciation is only part of the goal; capital preservation is important, too. Here's your guide for the week ahead.
The stock market last week posted its third weekly decline of the year, falling 0.4% to narrow its first-quarter gain to 6%. In the spotlight was crude oil, which fell more than 5% to hit a new 2017 low. The U.S. benchmark dropped below the psychologically significant threshold of $50 per barrel to close on Friday at $48.49. The culprit for crude's drop was a bearish short-term inventory report to which investors probably overreacted. Other data indicate that global demand for oil will outstrip supply after 2020.
However, investors were encouraged by the latest U.S. jobs report released Friday, which showed that the U.S. economy added 235,000 jobs in February while the unemployment rate dipped to 4.7%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report also showed average hourly earnings rose by 6 cents in February, accelerating the rate of wage growth from last month. Earnings are now up 2.8% over the year.
Not surprisingly, the new Trump administration was quick to take credit for the data, even though the positive momentum on jobs was inherited from Barack Obama. It should also be noted that during the presidential campaign that Donald Trump had derided BLS reports as "fake" and unreliable.
But Wall Street cares less about political consistency and more about results. The new employment data was unexpectedly robust and dampened fears that the economy is heading for a recession. Investors now eagerly await corporate and personal tax reform. However, if promised tax cuts don't come this year, it could be the pin that busts the overvalued market's balloon.
Another potential correction catalyst is the maladroit effort in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. House Republicans put forth a plan last week that's hated by everyone on the political spectrum. Indeed, most political observers deem the plan Dead on Arrival. If that's the case, protracted wrangling over health care could impede tax reform and other market-friendly promises made by Trump, such as massive infrastructure repair.
Also commanding attention in the week ahead will be the Federal Reserve. In the wake of last Friday's positive jobs data, the central bank is expected to announce another interest rate hike on March 15.
Noteworthy earnings reports in coming days include those from Guess (GES - Get Report) and Oracle (ORCL - Get Report) (Wednesday); Dollar General (DG - Get Report) (Thursday); and Tiffany & Co. (TIF - Get Report) (Friday).
Oracle's third-quarter scorecard for fiscal 2017 will especially garner attention, as traders seek clues for the health of the overall technology sector. The average analyst expectation is that the tech giant's earnings per share will come in at 62 cents, compared to 64 cents in the same year-ago quarter.
Oracle's fast-growing cloud services combined with a robust balance sheet and improving margins bode well for the stock. Investors will scrutinize operating results to see whether the company's cloud growth is sustainable.
Scheduled on the economic calendar: FOMC Meeting Begins (Tuesday); Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales, and Housing Market Index (Wednesday); Housing Starts and Jobless Claims (Thursday): Consumer Sentiment, Leading Indicators, and Baker Hughes (BHI) Rig Count (Friday).
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