Things slow down in the week ahead with many clocking off ahead of Thanksgiving on Thursday, Nov. 23. As in previous years, expect low volume and directionless trade as investors bide their time until a busier December.
In recent years, trading volume on the S&P 500 over the Thanksgiving week has been roughly one-third to half of the volume in the surrounding weeks. Over the past decade, the S&P 500 has averaged a weekly gain of around 1% over the Thanksgiving week and, in four of the past 10 Thanksgiving weeks, gains were 0.2% or below.
There are a few things to look out for, though. On the economic calendar, existing home sales for October will be released on Tuesday, Nov. 21; durable goods orders for October, weekly jobless claims, and a final reading on consumer sentiment for November on Wednesday, Nov. 22; and a flash PMI reading for November on Friday, Nov. 24.
Earnings are expected from Agilent Technologies Inc. (A) and Urban Outfitters Inc. (URBN) on Monday, Nov. 20; Campbell Soup Co. (CPB) , Lowe's Cos. (LOW) and Signet Jewelers Ltd. (SIG) on Tuesday; and Deere & Co. (DE) on Wednesday.
A quiet week aside, it's still a friendly environment for equities and investors, though high valuations should be monitored, according to Jason Browne, CIO of FundX.
"We are still in an environment where interest rates are remarkably low, earnings have been good, cyclically and so forth. Things are kind of still on track," Browne said in a call. "The big challenge now ... is trying to understand whether things are fully priced in. You've got valuations that are really higher than any other time since the late '90s."
Activity on Wall Street should pick up by early to mid-December, particularly when the Federal Reserve meets on Dec. 12-13. The Fed is widely expected to raise rates at that meeting -- the chances of a 25-basis-point increase in December sit at 92%, according to CME Group fed funds futures. This would mark the third increase of the year following hikes in March and June and the fourth since the financial crisis.
A Senate vote on the Republicans' tax cut bill in early December could also shake up trading action. The bill's passage is looking far more uncertain in the Senate than the House -- Republicans can only afford two "no" votes from their own party and at least half a dozen GOP senators have voiced their concerns over the bill in its current form. The promise of a lower corporate tax rate has propped up stock market gains so far this year.
"In Washington, investors are focused on tax reform which is gaining momentum with the passage in the House," U.S. Bank Wealth Management's Jeff Kravetz told TheStreet. "If successful, tax reform could be the near-term catalyst for the market to move higher."
Anticipation over those two December events could color investor sentiment in the three-and-a-half trading sessions this week. Markets will be closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving. The New York Stock Exchange will open as normal on Friday, but is scheduled to close at 1 p.m. ET.