Market Insider

Investors watch for more signs of economic stall

Dow takes aim at a new high

Cross currents caused by weak economic data and the resulting speculation about delayed Fed rate hikes are buoying the stock market.

But those trends could cause turbulence when central bank minutes and a batch of housing and other data are released in the week ahead.

The run of soft economic data in the first quarter has now clearly spilled into the second quarter, with some disappointing misses in just the past week in retail sales, producer price inflation data, industrial production and consumer sentiment. Those misses helped push market expectations for a first Fed rate hike past December and into January, with fewer market players now betting on a September rate increase.

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"We're in a binary situation where either the U.S. has slowed unexpectedly, where it is more than the weather, or we're going to see a number that says, 'We're all back in business and we're fine,'" said Paul Richards, UBS' head of foreign exchange distribution, Americas. Richards expects the former.

"The data we've seen (Friday) has affirmed my view. Next week, I think what we're going to do is keep data watching. There's housing numbers. That's a good one to watch, and we've got the Fed minutes on the 20th. That's a big one," said Richards. "The market's I believe would react to a good number, but I think we're going to see numbers that are underwhelming."

Housing starts are released Tuesday, and existing home sales are Thursday. CPI, consumer inflation data, is released Friday, and the Philadelphia Fed survey and jobless claims are Thursday. There are just a few earnings, but they are big retailers, like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target, and could show some insight into the consumer.

Minutes from the last Fed meeting are released Wednesday at 2 p.m. EDT. At that April meeting, the central bank downgraded its view on the economy, but it also left the door open for rate hikes this year, making it clear its decision would be based on the incoming economic data.

Since then, much of the data has disappointed. Economists have been actively lowering already negative first-quarter growth, while second-quarter growth has proven sluggish and is now expected closer to 2 percent than 3 percent.

Investors will also be watching Fed speakers this week, including Chair Janet Yellen delivering a speech on the economy to a Rhode Island chamber of commerce on Friday afternoon. Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer speaks at a European Central Bank forum on Thursday in Portugal.

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David Bianco, chief U.S. equity strategist at Deutsche Bank, said the push-pull of weak economic reports and Fed expectations could cause choppy seas for stocks.

"I'm expecting a 7 to 10 percent pullback in the (stock) market. I think that's what we're heading for this summer," said Bianco. "An even worse scenario would be if the labor market rolls over too. Nobody believes we're looking at a full-blown nasty recession but we could have a growth stall, for sure."

The consumer is proving to be a wild card in the economic outlook, showing a surprise weakness in spending and now in sentiment. Consumer sentiment dropped sharply Friday to 88.6, a seven-month low from 95.9, and economists blamed rising gasoline prices.

Read More Consumer sentiment posts big miss

According to analytics service Kensho, sentiment has lost more than 5 points 21 times in the last 10 years and when it did, the market declined in the following five days more often than not, with an average drop of a half percent. It was only up 38 percent of the time. The worst performing sectors were consumer staples, utilities and energy.

"The dollar really did seem to take a bit more out of the economy than expected, and for some unexplained reason people are not willing to spend on anything but health care and restaurants," said Bianco. Economists had been expecting the temporary impact of bad weather and the West Coast port strikes in the first quarter to give way to a bounce back in the second quarter.

Bianco said investors are latching on to the idea that bad news could be good because it will keep the Fed from hiking, but that could be problematic if unemployment continues to drop and wage hikes pick up, stirring inflation.

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"This is becoming extremely uncomfortable at this stage," he said. "The valuations are high. The Fed could still be hiking because the unemployment rate is coming down." Bianco still expects the central bank could raise rates in September.

For those reasons, he expects a rocky market this summer, but there are others who still look for a breakout with the close to its record high. The S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent to 2,122 this past week, while the Dow rose 0.4 percent to 18,272. Rising Treasury yields were a headwind for stocks, but reversed course late in the week. The 10-year yield hit a high of 2.36 percent during the past week, and by Friday afternoon it was even with the week earlier at 2.14 percent.

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Earnings: Urban Outfitters, Take Two Interactive, JA Solar

02:00 a.m.: Chicago Fed President Charles Evans on global outlook, Sweden

10:00 a.m.: NAHB survey


Earnings: Wal-Mart, Home Depot, TJX, Dick's Sporting Goods, Medtronic, Autodesk, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Vodafone, Analog Devices

08:30 a.m.: Housing starts


Earnings: Lowe's, Target, Staples, Target,, Synopsys, American Eagle Outfitter, Rexnord, Eaton Vance, Hormel Foods, Burberry, L Brands, Sears Holdings

03:00 a.m.: Chicago Fed's Evans on economic growth, monetary policy, Munich

02:00 p.m.: FOMC minutes


Earnings: Hewlett-Packard, Intuit, Williams-Sonoma, Gap, Trina Solar, Toro, The Buckle, Ross Stores, Aeropostale, Aruba Networks, Brocade

08:30 a.m.: Initial claims

10:00 a.m.: Existing home sales

01:30 p.m. Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer on economic outlook at ECB forum

07:00 p.m.: San Francisco Fed President John Williams on impact of form


Earnings: Campbell Soup, Deere, Foot Locker, Ann, Mentor Graphics, Krispy Kreme

08:30 a.m.: CPI

09:45 a.m. Manufacturing PMI

01:00 p.m. Fed Chair Janet Yellen at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce on economic outlook

Disclosure: CNBC's parent NBCUniversal has a minority stake in Kensho.