Congress Is Back in Session and Tax Reform Is Top of Mind - Week Ahead

The Senate and House are back in session after the long Labor Day weekend with a miles-long to-do list. Not only do they have to agree to raise the debt ceiling before a Sept. 29 deadline, but the Trump White House also has tasked them with a massive tax code overhaul.

Progress on both could move markets in the near term as day traders react to signs of progress or hints of dysfunction. But over the long term the focus on fundamentals will return and should give further rise to an already super-strong stock market.

"The markets will ebb and flow with the news on the short-term basis," Ron Weiner, managing director and partner of RDM Financial Group at HighTower, told TheStreet. "Ultimately it's earnings. The rest of it is noise -- it creates volatility."

Take the shock outcome of the Brexit vote in 2016 and a highly contentious U.S. presidential election and unexpected result, said Weiner. Both gave reasons to go conservative, but the stock market has withstood both to reach new heights.

Just as then, whichever way tax reform goes, the stock market's likely direction is up.

"Any culmination in a better tax code that somehow boosts the economy would be welcome but we don't think it's necessary for stocks to rise," he said. "If there is volatility to the negative side, we'd use that as an opportunity. We don't see 10% swings. If it happened, we don't think it'd be long-lived."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has talked up the prospects of a major tax overhaul by the end of the year. In comments to CNBC on Thursday, Aug. 31, Mnuchin said the White House has devised a "very detailed" tax plan that is currently circulating with members of Congress. The plan will be made public by the end of September.

On Wednesday, Aug. 30, President Donald Trump gave a rough outline of his vision for tax reform and called on Congress to act. In a speech in Missouri, Trump said he wanted to reduce the "crushing" tax burden by "fundamentally [reforming]" a confusing tax code. Among the few details listed, he again said he wanted to cut the corporate tax rate to 15% from 35%.

The tax cut would be part of four main goals the president said should be included in a tax overhaul: simplifying the tax code, making it more competitive with tax regimes in other countries, providing tax relief for middle-class families and encouraging U.S. companies to bring back trillions of dollars in profits "parked overseas."

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said earlier in August that the White House had developed a "skeleton" and that the Ways and Means Committee would need to flesh out the details.

It's a quieter week on the economic calendar. International trade for July, the ISM non-manufacturing index for August, and the Federal Reserve's "Beige Book" will be released on Wednesday, Sept. 6; and productivity and costs for the second quarter are set for Thursday, Sept. 7.

There are very few earnings in the coming week. Dave & Busters Entertainment Inc. (PLAY) , and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. (HPE) will report on Tuesday, Sept. 5; Francesca's Holdings Corp. (FRAN) , Fred's Inc. (FRED) , G-III Apparel Group Ltd. (GIII)  and HD Supply Holdings Inc. (HDS) on Wednesday; Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS) , Dollarama Inc. (DOL) , Finisar Corp. (FNSR) , FuelCell Energy Inc. (FCEL) , Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. (HOV)  and Verifone Systems Inc. (PAY) on Thursday; and Kroger Co. (KR) on Friday, Sept. 8.

Markets will be closed in the U.S. on Monday, Sept. 4, for Labor Day. Bonds and equities trading will resume as normal on Tuesday.

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