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Week Ahead: Wall Street Braces for Whipsaw Week

What should be a holiday lull of a week looks set to be anything but, with Wall Street on high alert for the latest twists and turns in the credit crisis, more volatility in commodity prices and key developments in the race for the White House.

Fallout from the credit crisis continues to plague markets, with investors increasingly believing in the likelihood of a federal bailout of home-funding giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Some market watchers expect the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to take action as early as this weekend.

"Look for the Fed and Paulson to take steps on Fannie and Freddie —the time is ripe. The market wants resolution here," said John Schloegel, vice president of investment strategies for Capital Cities Asset Management in Austin, Texas.

Lehman Brothers will also remain firmly in the spotlight, after state-run Korea Development Bank said on Friday that the U.S. investment bank was one of its options for acquisitions. That announcement came a day after veteran bank analyst Dick Bove said Lehman could become a target of a hostile takeover.

Financials aside, the sharp and frequent turnarounds in the direction of the price of oil have played a key role in the market's daily fortunes. Mounting geopolitical tensions between the West and Russia and any economic data showing slowing global growth could tug oileither way next week.

The U.S. presidential campaign also will take a more central role, with Republican John McCain set to reveal his vice presidential running mate, following up on Democrat Barack Obama naming Joe Biden as his pick. And the Democratic Party's national convention kicks off in Denver. Investors will look for how Wall Street-friendly the vice presidential picks are, analysts said.

New York Stock Exchange workers finish up trading minutes before the closing bell at the Exchange, Tuesday, April 3, 2007 in New York. Stocks surged Tuesday on signs of resilience in the housing market and the U.S. consumer, with falling oil prices giving investors an extra reason to rally. The Dow Jones industrials gained more than 120 points. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Julie Jacobson
New York Stock Exchange workers finish up trading minutes before the closing bell at the Exchange, Tuesday, April 3, 2007 in New York. Stocks surged Tuesday on signs of resilience in the housing market and the U.S. consumer, with falling oil prices giving investors an extra reason to rally. The Dow Jones industrials gained more than 120 points. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

"There are a lot of cross-currents here. You've got oil, financials and politics coming together, and it's hard to see that combining in a way that's a perfect storm to the downside or a perfect environment to the upside," said Jeffrey Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial Services in Boston.

All these cross-currents come in the week before the Labor Day holiday, and analysts said the low trading volume could exacerbate swings in the major stock indexes.

"I think it's important that the week ahead is the last week in August and so whatever happens, we should take it with a grain of salt," said Linda Duessel, market strategist at Federated Investors in Pittsburgh.

For the week ended Aug. 22, the Dow Jones industrial average dipped 0.3 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 0.5 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite Index lost 1.5 percent.

Housing: The Quest for Stability

Housing will be a dominant theme at the beginning of the week, with July existing home sales on Monday, followed on Tuesday by the S&P Case-Shiller home price index and new home sales for July.

"What we've been saying about housing is, 'Just show us some stability!' We're looking for a silver lining," said Federated Investors' Duessel.

Consumer confidence data on Tuesday, plus consumer sentiment and personal income data on Friday could give the market more clues about the health of consumer spending and the economy as the boost from tax-rebate checks wanes, said John Praveen, chief investment strategist at Prudential International Investments Advisers in Newark, New Jersey.

The personal income data includes the Fed's preferred inflation gauge.

Preliminary real GDP data on Thursday is expected to show second-quarter growth at an annual rate of of 2.7 percent, compared with 1.9 percent in the first quarter.

"The second-quarter GDP data will be revised higher because of the trade numbers, but the market will be looking more closely at some of the more forward-looking data to see what will happen next, what is the extent of the economic slowdown going forward," said Prudential International Investments' Praveen.

July durable goods orders on Wednesday and initial jobless claims data on Thursday could also provide more clues on the economic outlook, Praveen said.