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Week Ahead: Stocks Could Be in for Choppy Seas

Friday, 15 May 2009 | 8:09 PM ET

Expect choppy seas for stocks in the coming week.

For the most part, traders say the market should bump along with a downward bias while it establishes a new trading range. The lack of economic news and earnings reports in the coming week leaves a news vacuum, and the market will be looking for catalysts.

From 'Fast Money':

Minutes from the last Fed meeting, and the Fed's economic forecast are released Wednesday. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner testifies Wednesday before Congress on the TARP, and there are a few economic reports, including housing starts and leading indicators. Dow components Home Depot and Hewlett-Packard are among the few companies reporting earnings in the week ahead.

Inside the New York Stock Exchange.
Oliver Quillia for CNBC.com
Inside the New York Stock Exchange.

Stocks staged their worst weekly decline since March 6. The Dow was down 306 points, or 3.6 percent to 8268, and the S&P 500 fell 46 points, nearly 5 percent, to 882. The Nasdaq had its first down week in 10, losing 3.4 percent to 1680.

The dollar, meanwhile firmed at the end of the week, and Treasurys saw a gain for the week, as the Fed continued its bond purchases. The 10-year's yield, at 3.125 percent, was below the week-earlier high yield of just under 3.30 percent.

"The push and pull on this market right now is amazing. You have one camp of people who are talking about increasingly positive economic data, and we're getting a lot of (stock) deals done in a short amount of time. There's a lot of positive elements out there. But the bearish argument is we were just up 37 percent and we're still not out of the woods," said Art Hogan of Jefferies.

"There's a bit of common sense here to have a retracement. You want to pull back a little bit. The guys that led the parade are the financials, and they have a lot of new offerings coming out," said Hogan. Hogan noted that the recent $40 billion in secondary offerings, many issued by banks raising capital, is a record for the month of May.

More From CNBC.com:

Brown Brothers Harriman's Brian Rauscher turned bullish in early March and is still bullish now, but he admits he expects it to be only temporary. "We're still in the same bear market rally. Could we go down? Have we seen the low for the correction within the bear market rally? That's hard to say. The bigger point is I still think there's higher highs out there. We're recommending clients to still buy the dip," he said.

"It's playing the course of a bear market rally. The gravy part of the rally I think is over. We will now go through the grind it up phase and it will go higher, and it's yet to be seen if it goes three more weeks or three more months.. I don't think we get much through (S&P) 1,000 which is the upper edge of our target," he said.

Traders are watching several key levels on the S&Ps. The next level of support is in the 875 to 878 range. If that level fails, it could slip to the next level of 850 to 855. Many say the market may not be able to break above recent highs until there are real signs of economic improvement, not just "less" bad data.

The coming week's lack of news could pose problems for stocks. "Right now, the market needs reasons to go up, and every time we get something that's second derivative positive, the market acts better. A quiet calendar, in my personal view, makes it challenging for the market," Rauscher said.

EARNINGS AND ECONOMIC NEWS ON DECK

Those Fed minutes top the list of economic reports in the coming week. There is also housing starts data Tuesday, and the National Association of Home Builders survey, released Monday. The Philadelphia Fed survey is Thursday, as are leading indicators. Weekly jobless claims are also reported Thursday.

"I think you're going to see the Fed sound more optimistic. The Fed is going to follow the equity market like everybody else. It will be less doom and gloom than it was in March," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.

In terms of data this week, "the only thing we're looking for is a bounce in housing starts because they are extremely depressed, and then I would say just watch for the jobless claims numbers which are going to be around 640,000." he said.

LaVorgna said the main focus for the Treasury market will be the stock market. "The equity market is pretty much driving everything. It's driving all of the sentiment indexes...It's helping keep spreads in as they've rallied a lot. Everything has been an equity trade," he said.

"There's a little bit of circularity here. The longer the equity market stays up 35 percent from its low, the more likely the economy does better, and it's more likely the equity market doesn't go back down," he said. The risk to the stock market is that the recovery will not be as robust as investors think it will be.

"Do you get a sharp cyclical type of recovery? Our view is that's not the case, but that's what the market is trying to figure out," he said.

The Risk Trade

In the past week, the dollar gained a percent against the euro but it lost 3.4 percent against the yen .

"The price action suggests the risk rally has ended, and we're likely to see further weakness in the risky assets, basically stocks and yen crosses. You could throw commodities in there too," said Brian Dolan, chief strategist at Forex.com.

Dolan expects the dollar to gain some traction in the week ahead but at the same time, other assets will move lower or sideways. "It's pretty quiet out there on the data front, and unfortunately basically the momentum has fallen out and there's not going to be a lot of new juice coming in," he said.

Dolan said there are a few pieces of foreign data worth watching. A major German sentiment survey is released Tuesday, and Eurozone purchasing managers data is released Thursday.

Earnings Central

There are just a few companies reporting in the week ahead, as the earnings season winds down. A group of retailers report, starting with Lowe's Monday, then Home Depot , TJX and Saks Tuesday. Target , B.J.'s Wholesale, PetSmart, Limited Brands and Ann Taylor are out Wednesday. Ross Stores, Gap, Gamestop and Aeropostale report Thursday. (Get more earnings updates below the quotes box.)

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There are a few others reporting as well. Hewlett-Packard reports Tuesday, as does Medtronic and Analog Devices. On Wednesday, Toll Brothers, Deere, Computer Sciences, Intuit and NetApp release results. Suntech Power reports Thursday, and Campbell Soup reports Friday. (See what else to watch below the quote box.)

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What Else to Watch

President Obama Monday meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Also that day, the House Energy and Commerce committee begins marking up its clean energy bill, which includes cap and trade provisions.

Geithner testifies Wednesday before the Senate Banking Committee on the Troubled Asset Relief Program.


Questions? Comments? marketinsider@cnbc.com

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