Will the Stock Market Bulls Keep Running?
Stocks could continue to march higher if there are no nasty surprises in the deluge of economic reports expected in the week ahead.
The economic calendar is jam packed, starting with durable goods Monday, consumer confidence Tuesday, and ending with the important January employment report and ISM manufacturing data Friday. The Fed meets Tuesday and Wednesday though expectations are low that it will make much news.There are also dozens of earnings reports, including industrials, like Caterpillar, and major oils like Exxon Mobil, which surpassed a shrinking Apple Friday to become the largest U.S. company by market cap.
"It's the Super Bowl of data and activity next week," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. Rupkey expects to see 160,000 nonfarm payrolls, above the 155,000 new jobs created in December. Economists are also watching to see whether the lower level of jobless claims reported in the last two weeks continues, signaling a better job market, or whether they will adjust back to higher levels, as many expect.
"We've been on a run here. The data seems to be good, and it seems to be improving almost day-to-day. It seems to be getting better," he said.
"The stock market is the most leading of leading indicators. It keeps going up," said Rupkey.
The S&P 500 rose 1.1 percent in the past week to 1502, its first close above 1500 since Dec. 10, 2007. The Dow was up 1.8 percent at 13,895, the highest level since Oct. 31, 2007, and just 1.9 percent away from its all-time high. The Nasdaq was up 0.5 percent at 3149, held back by big losses in Apple, which fell sharply on disappointing earnings news.
Some analysts believe that big round numbers, like 1500 and 14,000 on the Dow are zones that could cause a mild pullback in stocks, or a pause in the not too distant future.
(Read More: Why S&P 1500 May Signal Stock Rally Has Peaked)
"I think we could continue to grind higher here," said Art Hogan of Lazard Capital Partners. "… I think it's going to be hard to stop it next week unless we get a downside surprise in the jobs number. What could put the brakes on this rally comes the week after when we start the political theater in Washington."
While Congress has been relatively quiet this week, after extending the debt ceiling into May, traders are eyeing what might happen in February when politicians tangle over spending and budget cuts. On March 1, the automatic spending cuts start hitting the defense budget and other agencies if Congress does not stop them.
As the stock market rose this past week, interest rates also moved higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed about 15 basis points in two days, and was at 1.949 percent late Friday. "I think we're probably going to test and break 1.97," said Rupkey. That was the high level rates quickly reached after the last Fed minutes revealed that several Fed members thought quantitative easing should end this year. The bond market will also focus on supply in the coming week, when $99 billion in two-, five- and seven-year notes are auctioned by the Treasury Monday through Wednesday.
"We'll see if we can get through it. We do tend to selloff during supply. We're only a heartbeat away from two percent. I think we'll probably get there," Rupkey said.
David Ader, chief Treasury strategist with CRT Capital, said while the 10-year yield could reach two percent in the near future, it will likely reverse course and move lower as buyers come in. "The economic landscape is not so robust, and I think we backed up a lot on this almost ubiquitous fear in the marketplace that this is the year yields go up and the Fed may take it (QE) away from the party," he said.
"The very fact stocks are going up might mean something threatening to bonds," he said. But Ader said he doesn't expect investors to pull away in a big way from bonds, and the so-called "great rotation" into stocks some believe will come this year, is unlikely to happen now. He does see a 50 percent chance Congress will let the "sequestration" or automatic cuts go into effect, and that will hit the economy.
There is also the potential for drag on consumer spending this quarter from the increase in payroll taxes Jan. 1. Economists see higher taxes slowing growth by as much as 1 percent in the first quarter.
"I don't think this is the start of a sustainable bond market sell off without the support of a fundamental changes in the economy," Ader said. "It does seem while some areas of the economy have improved, housing for example, there are some areas of the economy still feeling headwinds."
Stocks vs. Bonds
Jeff Mortimer, director of investment strategy at BNY Mellon Wealth Management, also sees some problems remaining for the economy. But he also sees the list of worries – including Europe and China's growth getting shorter — and that is helping stocks.
"I like the fact people are doubting. I like the fact people are not giving credit. I like the fact valuations are not stretched. Risky is becoming safe and safe is becoming risky," Mortimer said. "I wonder how individuals will react when and if their bond returns start to show up as negative numbers."
(Read More: Market Bears: 'I Can't Fight It Anymore')
"We'll have to see how people react when rates rise," he said. Yet, Mortimer sees "no great rotation" this year, and he expects the 10-year yield to range between a low of 1.5 percent and 2.5 to 2.75 percent on the high end. "This is not the break out year for rates. We still think it's a muddle through economy. It's not that strong. It's a growth recession, not an actual recession."
But Mortimer likes stocks and sees a resiliency in the market. "We continue to be overweight equities. We continue to believe the market is climbing a wall of worry," he said.
"The market is discounting a too pessimistic a future," he said. Mortimer expects the S&P 500 to make it to a level of 1575 to 1600 by year end.
Hogan points out that the last time the S&P was at 1500, the price to earnings ratio was 16.5. "Now we're at 13.5. It's a more reasonably priced 1500 than the last time we saw it, and it's all happening when Apple is going south," he said.
The fact that stocks held their gains and moved higher in the face of Apple's decline was seen as a positive by analysts. Mortimer said it shows a healthy move away from one strong leader, and the spreading of money into other stocks that can help take the market higher.
(Read More: Why Stocks Rallied Even While Apple Got Crushed)
Apple lost 12 percent for the week, and more than 14 percent Thursday and Friday, or $69.7 billion in market cap. That puts it at $413.79 billion, just under Exxon, which is valued at $418.23 billion. Howard Silverblatt of Standard and Poor's points out that the $246.7 billion Apple lost in market value since September is greater than the value of IBM and equal to the bottom 66 stocks in the S&P 500.
0830 am Durable goods
1000 am Pending home sales
1030 am Dallas Fed Survey
0100 pm $35 billion 2-year note auction
Earnings: Amazon, Ford, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, DR Horton, EMC, Harley Davidson, Illinois Tool Works, Corning, Ashland, Allstate, Valero, Peabody Energy, International Paper, Tyco, Tupperware, Broadcom, Boston Properties, Nucor, CIT Group, AK Steel
2-day FOMC meeting begins
0900 am S&P/Case Shiller home prices
1000 am Consumer confidence
0100 pm $35 billion 5-year note auction
Earnings: Boeing, Facebook, Qualcomm, Fiat/Chrysler, Hess, Conoco Phillips, Cannon, Marathon Petroleum, L-3 Comm, MeadWestvaco, JDS Uniphase, Northrop Grumman, NTT DoCoMo, Phillips 66, Cannon, ADT, Wisconsin Energy, Booz Allen Hamilton, Manpower Group, Southern Co, Skyworks, Owens-Illinois, Murphy Oil, Duke Realty, Rockwell Automation
0700 am Mortgage applications
0815 am ADP employment
0830 am Real GDP fourth quarter final
0100 pm $29 billion 7-year note auction
0215 pm FOMC statement
Earnings: Deutsche Bank, Royal Dutch Shell, Aetna, Blackstone, Altria, Hershey, Time Warner Cable, Viacom, Dow Chemical, UPS, Chubb, McKesson, PerkinElmer, Reinsurance Group of America, Manitowoc, Thermo Fisher Scientific, MasterCard, Colgate-Palmolive, Dominion Resources, Occidental Petroleum, Ericsson, Potash, Pulte Group, Bemis, Corinthian Colleges, Meritage Homes, Ryder Systems, Eastman Chemical, CR Bard
0830 am Initial claims
0830 am Personal income
0830 am Employment cost index
0945 am Chicago PMI
Monthly vehicle sales
0830 am Employment report
0955 am Consumer sentiment
1000 am ISM manufacturing
1000 am Construction spending