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With US data in the freezer, traders look overseas

In a week rife with U.S. data, equity investors have not been swayed by economic reports, whether worse, or better, than projected. And that's not likely to change, given the weather pass currently being granted to the numbers.

"We're going to be debating whether it's the weather, or something more fundamental, until the weather gets better," said Hugh Johnson, chairman of Hugh Johnson Advisors, who expects that reports unencumbered by the harsh winter won't be forthcoming until April or May.

Friday's nonfarm payrolls report is no exception, regardless whether it surprises to the upside or downside. "Friday will have some sort of a surprise, but I don't think it's going to pry anybody away from this view, that the numbers have been very much affected by the cold weather," Johnson said.

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

"In order to get a real move, either up or down, you need some news that is really genuine, and I don't think the employment report is going to do it. So the question is, what is going to do it," asked Johnson.

"Ukraine is going to be a topic that will be prominent here the remainder of the week," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

(Read more: Fed: Severe weather impact seen throughout economy)

Johnson agreed, while also offering economic signals from Europe and China as market-moving candidates.

"The market is on edge" awaiting the outcome of the Ukraine crisis, he said. But "if there's no confrontation, there won't be any economic consequence," said Johnson, who expressed cautious optimism that the crisis has passed.

Secondly, Wall Street is looking for confirmation that Europe's economic recovery continues, and that the European Central Bank is keeping deflation at bay.

(Read more: IMF calls for ECB action: What are Draghi's options?)

"The recovery in Europe is really not on firm footing, but the big worry in Europe is deflation, that's Draghi's dread," said Johnson, referring to ECB President Mario Draghi.

Lastly, investors need "more confidence that the growth rate in China is going to be stable near 7.7 percent," he said.

"Good economic and good inflation numbers out of Europe, and some confidence-building numbers out of China, could get the market out of dead center," said Johnson.

—By CNBC's Kate Gibson.

  • Patti Domm

    Patti Domm is CNBC Executive Editor, News, responsible for news coverage of the markets and economy.

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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