Numbers getting ugly as August passes midpoint

August may be hot on most of the streets of New York, but Wall Street isn't one of them. The Dow and S&P 500 have slipped in seven of the past nine sessions, with the Dow now on track for its biggest weekly drop in four months. This comes as 10 year Treasury yields remain near two-year highs and elevated concern that the Fed will begin tapering its bond-buying program at its September meeting.

The end of the week brings another busy day for economic numbers, with July housing starts and second quarter productivity figures both out at 830 a.m. ET. Economists look for an increase of 8.9 percent in starts to an annual rate of 910,000 units, while consensus forecasts call for a 0.7 percent annual rate increase in worker productivity.

At 9:55 a.m. ET, the University of Michigan's preliminary August consumer sentiment index is expected to come in at 85.5, slightly higher than July's final 85.1.

The earnings calendar is virtually blank, as is often the case on Fridays once earnings season has passed.

Dell (DELL) leads our list of stocks to watch, as the computer maker reports second quarter profit of 25 cents per share, excluding certain items, one cent above estimates, with revenue also beating forecasts. However, Dell's profits were 72 percent below year ago levels amid falling PC sales and the company's ongoing buyout battle.

Applied Materials (AMAT) earned 18 cents per share, excluding certain items, one cent below estimates, with revenue short of forecasts as well. The company also forecast current quarter earnings below analyst estimates amid restrained spending by its customers. Separately, the maker of semiconductor manufacturing equipment appointed president Gary Dickerson as chief executive officer effective September 1. He'll replace current CEO Michael Splinter, who will remain as executive chairman.

Nordstrom (JWN) earned 93 cents per share for the second quarter, five cents above estimates, but the retailer cut its full year earnings and revenue outlook amid sliding same-store sales.

JoS. A. Bank (JOSB) is forecasting second quarter profit of 49 to 53 cents per share, below Street estimates of 68 cents. The clothing retailer cites weak sales despite an aggressive promotional marketing campaign.

Activision Blizzard (ATVI) and Electronic Arts (EA) could move as NPD reports a 19 percent decline in videogame sales in July. Once again, NPD cites customer reluctance to buy until new videogame consoles come out later this year.

BHP Billiton (BHP) may face a possible anti-corruption enforcement action in the U.S., as authorities accelerate an investigation linked to the mining giant's 2008 Olympics sponsorship. BHP has said in the past that it believes it has complied with all relevant laws regarding its sponsorship.

IBM (IBM), Oracle (ORCL), and EMC (EMC) will be probed by China officials over security issues, according to media reports in China. The concerns are said to be related to the Edward Snowden case and his claim that the NSA hacked into networks at universities in China and Hong Kong.

Ford (F) is restating mileage claims for its C-Max hybrid, following customer complaints that the vehicle wasn't getting the claimed mileage. Ford will make a payment of $550 to customers who purchased the C-Max and $325 to those who have leased it.

Aspen Technology (AZPN) earned 24 cents per share for its fiscal fourth quarter, well above estimates of eight cents, with revenue above estimates as well. The software producer is seeing improved sales of its software and subscriptions for its energy and pharmaceutical supply chain solutions.