Stocks: Waiting on the Fed
POSTED: Sunday, August 19, 2012 - 8:00pm
UPDATED: Sunday, August 19, 2012 - 8:04pm
NEW YORK (CNN Money) — A fairly quiet week is on tap for U.S. stocks, as investors await possible news out of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
"It's going to slow to a trickle the next two weeks," said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners. "Barring something unforeseen, I'd expect it to be low-volume, low-volatility -- two weeks of nothing big."
Trading volumes, which have been subdued for most of this year, have declined even further in the past few weeks. That slowdown should continue as the summer doldrums drag on.
Even as fewer shares change hands, the U.S. central bank will once again take center stage when it releases minutes from its July meeting on Tuesday. While the Fed didn't announce any further stimulus measures at the meeting, investors will look for clues about whether quantitative easing could be coming at its next meeting in Jackson Hole at the end of the month.
"If the minutes talk explicitly about another round of quantitative easing, that would be meaningful. Or if somehow from the minutes, the regional outlook is worse than people thought, that could be meaningful," said Landesman.
Investors will be looking at several data points for signs of how the U.S. economy is faring.
A string of housing market reports are set to be released this week, with analysts expecting positive data on existing home sales, mortgages and home prices.
Better-than-expected reports on housing starts and building permits last week built on optimism about the state of the housing market. Home prices and new construction have also started to pick up in recent months as foreclosures have slowed.
Initial and continuing jobless claims, crude inventories and durable orders are also on tap.
Europe will once again come into focus as Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande, among other top eurozone officials. Samaras is expected to push for a two-year extension of Greece's bailout program, which would give the government more time to implement difficult reforms.
The meetings come after the Greek government sold over €4 billion worth of three-month bills last week, which analysts say will be used to repay €3.2 billion in bonds held by the European Central Bank that mature on Monday.
On the corporate front, earnings season is drawing to a close, but there are still a few big U.S. companies left to report second-quarter earnings, including Best Buy Co., Dell, Hewlett-Packard.
U.S. stocks finished the week higher, with the Dow and S&P clocking in their sixth consecutive week of gains. The Dow rose 0.5%, the S&P increased 0.9% and the Nasdaq, which climbed for fifth straight week, added 1.8%.