By the end of the coming week, it should be much more apparent whether a soft first quarter has really given way to an economic spring back.
Markets will navigate a Fed meeting, earnings from a quarter of the S&P 500, and some significant economic data, most importantly – Friday’s April jobs report.
But traders agree that tensions surrounding Ukraine will continue to dominate market focus, with the U.S. announcing new sanctions against Russia on Monday and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is headed to Washington on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Fed is expected to proceed with another $10 billion tapering of its bond-buying program, but it is not expected to take other actions or even tweak its statement much.
The U.S. monthly jobs number will be the most important piece of new information on the data front, important in gauging the health of the economy and future Fed action.
First quarter GDP will be reported Wednesday for the first time, and the Fed will have a look at that report before it releases its 2 p.m. statement that day. J.P. Morgan chief economist Bruce Kasman expects first-quarter growth of 1.1 percent, but he expects an improvement to 3 percent in the current quarter. As for the Fed, he does not expect anything new.
“I think it’s basically somewhat more confident that the economy is going to pick up off of this and there’s certainly no real change in message on the policy front,” Kasman said. “We had a slowing in the early part of the year. Payroll growth slowed down to 180,000. We think we’re going to average a little over 200,000 this quarter. It’s not a big move, but it’s a move up.”
Kasman expects 220,000 jobs were added in April, up from 192,000 in March, and an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent. “There will be interest in a wage dynamic, which should show a touch of firming,” he said. The expectations are that average hourly earnings will rise 0.2 percent or 2.1 percent year-over-year.
Tony Crescenzi, senior portfolio manager and strategist at Pimco, said if the payrolls are much higher than expected or the wages rise more than expected, there could be a negative reaction in the bond market as traders speculate the Fed could move sooner to raise interest rates. “The Fed and Janet Yellen made it clear they’ll be watching the wage figures very closely,” he said. “A pickup in nominal wage growth would be consistent with employment conditions moving closer to normal. The vast majority of inflation can be explained by wage and labor costs. If the (jobs number) is as expected and wages were to be higher than anticipated that would elicit a negative reaction in the bond market. Yellen has made it clear the Fed will be watching that figure as a measure of slack.”
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Kasman said the second-quarter data should show an economy that is rebounding from the sluggish first quarter. Key reports also include ISM manufacturing data and auto sales, both Thursday.
Ukraine could also be a factor for markets. Stocks would have been positive for the past week, if not for Friday’s selloff, a response in part to headlines on Ukraine. The Dow was off 0.3 percent at 16,361; the S&P 500 was off less than 0.1 percent at 1,863, and the Nasdaq was off 0.5 percent at 4,075.
Crescenzi said the street view on Ukraine is that the situation will de-escalate, but the situation could remain supportive of the bond market as traders seek safety.
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“Of course it’s a big deal because we don’t know how the market discounts whatever,” said Laszlo Birinyi of Birinyi Associates. “It can’t discount something like this. I don’t worry too much about interest rates or earnings…That’s the market’s job.” But the market does not know how to value the unknown, he said.
Birinyi said he’s positive on stocks, but Ukraine is a concern.
“I’m still comfortable. We said 1,800 in the second quarter (on the S&P),” he said. “The volatility is depressing. You see an Amazon that was $350 is now $300. Chipotle was $600 a couple weeks ago, and now it broke $500 on the downside.”
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Earnings: Charter Communications, CNA Financial, Tenneco, Boardwalk Pipeline, Herbalife, Buffalo Wild Wings, Hartford Financial, General Growth Properties, Range Resources, Healthsouth, Plum Creek Timber, The Container Store,
10:00 a.m.: Pending home sales
10:30 a.m.: Business inventories
Fed meeting begins
Earnings: Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Twitter, eBay, Seagate, Aflac, DreamWorks Animation, Panera Bread, Sanofi, Archer Daniels Midland, Coach, Cummins, Forest Labs, Deutsche Bank, MGM, 3-D Systems, Boston Scientific, Martin Marietta Materials, Valero Energy, Nokia, HCA, Eaton, CIT Group, Noodles and Co, Trulia, MGM Mirage
9:00 a.m.: S&P/Case Shiller HPI
10:00 a.m.: Consumer confidence
10:00 a.m.: Housing vacancies
Earnings: Time Warner, Daimler, GlaxoSmithKline, Thomson Reuters, Pitney Bowes, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, AllianceBernstein, Shutterfly,Weight Watchers, Yelp, JDS Uniphase, Tesoro, International Rectifier, Whiting Petroleum, Actavis, MetLife, Flextronics, Boston Beer, Automatic Data, Hess, Hyatt, International Paper, Embraer, Philips 66, Flextronics, Level 3, Southern Co, WellPoint Health, Wisconsin Energy
8:15 a.m.: ADP employment
8:30 a.m.: Q1 GDP (adv)
8:30 a.m.: Employment cost index (Q1)
9:45 a.m.: PMI
2:00 p.m.: Fed statement
Light vehicle sales
Earnings: ExxonMobil, MasterCard, ConocoPhillips, Cardinal Health, Mylan Las, Domino’s Pizza, Iron Mountain, Beazer Homes, Generac,Expedia, American Tower, Cigna, CME Group, Goldcorp, Clorox, Calpine, Marathon Petroleum, Kraft, LinkedIn, Vertex Pharma, Akamai, Teva Pharma, Kellogg, Agnico Eagle Mines, Open Table
8:30 a.m.: Fed Chair Janet Yellen speaks to the Independent Community Bankers of America
8:30 a.m.: Initial claims
8:30 a.m.: Personal income
8:58 a.m.: Manufacturing PMI
10:00 a.m.: ISM manufacturing
10:00 a.m.: Construction spending
8:30 a.m.: Employment
10:00 a.m.: Factory orders
—By CNBC’s Patti Domm. Follow her on Twitter @pattidomm.