August trading kicks off Tuesday on what could be one of the more important market days of the summer.
The PCE inflation data report, which is closely watched by the Fed and a key to its decisions on interest rates, leads a series of major economic reports, including personal income and spending, and car sales.
Before the bell, there are dozens of earnings reports, from companies such as Pfizer and Under Armour, but the market is really waiting for Apple earnings after the bell. Apple is expected to report adjusted earnings of $1.57 per share, a nearly 11 percent gain, on a six percent jump in revenue to $44.89 billion in the June quarter, according to analyst-consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters.
"Tomorrow could be the pivotal day of the week," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "Usually you say it will take a back seat to the jobs number. I don't think this does. Everything is on the 'A' list."
Given the slump in tech, Hogan thinks everything Apple says could be a big deal. "We really want to hear what they say about guidance. We want the tell," he said, adding that the market is looking for details on the iPhone 8 and its release date.
Apple earnings also come just as the tech sector has been looking a little weak in the knees. On Thursday, the Nasdaq saw an abrupt reversal after opening at new highs. Technical analysts say it could suggest more selling ahead. Nasdaq was down more than 26 points to 6,348 on Monday, while the Dow finished up more than 60, closing at a record 21,891. The S&P 500 was off nearly two points at 2470.
Tuesday morning's data could set the tone across financial markets, as investors position for the new month.
The inflation data is key since Fed Chair Janet Yellen, when she testified before Congress in July, pointed out that the central bank is concerned about the weak trend. The market responded by becoming even more skeptical that the Fed would raise interest rates again this year.
"It may overshadow employment this week. Jobs is interesting because we need at least an 0.3 percent gain in wages to just hold onto a 2.5 percent year-over-year gain," said Diane Swonk of DS Economics. The wage number in Friday's jobs report has in some ways become more important than the top line number.
For PCE inflation, Swonk is expecting 1.3 percent or 1.4 percent year-over-year when the number is released at 8:30 a.m. ET. Inflation readings have been weakening since early this year. "What's interesting is there are all these one offs," said Swonk. Cell phone charges and pharmaceutical prices have affected it, and cell phones may impact it again for July.
"It is still a conundrum on the wages, and inflation is not likely to accelerate. Inflation is not likely to accelerate. It's likely to decelerate. This is worrisome for the Fed," said Swonk.
There's also data that should reveal how the consumer is faring — personal income and spending — and there's important data on manufacturing, with both the ISM manufacturing survey and PMI. July car sales bridge the two, acting as a signal both for the consumer and manufacturing economies.
The inflation data could be market moving if it surprises in either direction. Hotter-than-expected inflation could send the dollar higher and bond yields higher.
The dollar was lower Monday, and the dollar index ended the month with a 2.9 percent loss, its worst since March 2016. Gold gained 2.5 percent in its best monthly performance since February.
Stocks were all higher for the month. The Nasdaq gained 3.4 percent for July, and the S&P was up 1.9 percent, higher for an eighth month. The Dow was up 2.5 percent.
Earnings are also expecetd from BP, Honda Motor, Archer Daniels Midland, Cummins, CME Grouop, Xerox, Beazer Homes and Phillips 66. Valvoline, Pioneer Natural Resource, Newfield Exploration, Devon Energy, Genworth Financial, Cabot and Extra Space Storage.