"Predicting Donald Trump's tweets is bordering on the impossible. Next week is the last major week of earnings season so that's going to be ongoing, but I think with all the political news, the earnings have taken a back seat. I don't anticipate there being any change. The bottom line for the earnings season is things are pretty good," said Dan Suzuki, equities strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Stocks could easily break out to new highs, but anxiety is beginning to rise over when Washington will turn to the tax and spending policies that drove the Dow up 9 percent since the election.
In the bond market, uncertainty about the administration's trade and other policy helped drive rates lower, as did the fact that the Fed appears to be on hold until midyear at the earliest. Weak wage growth in Friday's January employment report dampened any expectation the Fed would speed up its interest rate hiking cycle, even though job growth was unexpectedly strong. The 10-year Treasury note yield was at 2.47 percent late Friday, while the two-year was at 1.19 percent.
"What will keep getting attention is what's coming from the new administration. Politics, as opposed to central banks, have become the primary driver of yields in the near term, and the main source of volatility," said Boris Rjavinski, Wells Fargo director, rate strategy. "…It does seem to make a difference when a certain account tweets more or tweets less."
Stocks were led higher by financials Friday, and the financial sector was up almost 2 percent for the week, in its best performance since November. The Dow was just barely lower for the week, off 0.1 percent at 20,071, 40 points below its all-time high. The S&P 500 was up 0.1 percent at 2,297, just one point below its closing high. The dollar index was down 0.8 percent for the week, hit by protectionist sounding comments from Trump administration officials.
Scott Redler, partner with T3Live.com, said Friday's stock market action was technically positive and sets the market up for new highs in the coming week. He noted the banks started the postelection Trump rally, and they were higher with small caps on Friday. The Russell 2000 was at 1,377, up 1.5 percent Friday, double the gain of the S&P 500.
"This could keep the Dow above 20,000 this time. Earnings have been pretty good with 72 percent of companies beating," he said. A broad-based move should keep the momentum going, but he noted that one negative is that high beta tech, like Amazon.com and Facebook, didn't manage to break out to new highs.
"My guess is we're kind of running out of tape bombs that come out of the White House, for the short term," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "It feels as though my guess is we get any glimmer of a shift back to the fundamentals, the market finds a path higher."
The timing of when the political focus will shift to the items on the president's agenda that have driven stocks higher has become a topic of some concern. Traders have been hoping both tax reform and infrastructure spending would come early in the year, but Trump has been focusing on other things, like immigration and trade. The president does meet with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the end of the week.
"We would have prioritized what the president did in the first two weeks with the things that please us most," said Hogan. "Building walls, changing immigration laws on the fly, starting trade wars … all that has the market saying, 'Wait a minute, you ran on tax cuts.' Whether it's done by reconciliation or done by legislation, it's going to take time. The shift back to focus on fundamentals, it's not going to take us substantially higher. It's taking us back to where we were two weeks ago."
Hogan said the market is showing some positive signs, and the fact that Snap announced its public offering is a good indicator for both the IPO market and the broader market.
Julian Emanuel, equity and derivatives strategist at UBS, does not see big gains, but says stocks could move up for now.
"The question is, have investors fully factored in this whole idea that the legislative and policy agenda is full enough such that tax reform is going to be very late 2017 or 2018 issue? And for us the most interesting thing sort of below the surface is that earnings estimates which we have believed for months are too high, actually have come down over the last week pretty dramatically," said Emanuel.
He said the Street now sees earnings growing just over 11 percent in 2017, about a percentage point lower than last week.
"We continue to think they will converge to our number, which is 5.9 percent, because the legislative process is a long and complex thing. It's clear there are other things higher on the agenda than tax reform," he said.
Emanuel said the last time there was major tax reform was in the Reagan era, and it took five years from when Reagan first entered office.
"Literally every issue with regard to tax reform is open for negotiation," said Emanuel.
Suzuki said the market is focused on what investors think will happen six months out, when it comes to tax reform or infrastructure spending.
"Our perspective has been that in the very near term, while there's no more 'central bank put,' it's been replaced with a 'Trump put.' The 'Trump put' is reliant on not getting much detail on the eventual policies we're getting, in the near term, which keeps the hope trade alive," he said.
But investors are beginning to have some doubts about what Trump trade and other policy will look like, as well as the nitty-gritty of current tax proposals.
"The market is beginning to focus on some of the negatives that fall within the policy options. Right now the negatives of border adjustment, losing interest deductions and concern about trade friction … and overall social unrest. People are talking more about that stuff because we're not getting much clarity," Suzuki said.
A border-adjusted tax, which would tax imports but not exports, is a controversial change in the tax structure that is being discussed as part of corporate tax reform. Removing some deductibility of interest is also being proposed.