All eyes are on Europe this morning, as the European Central Bank (ECB) set its monetary policy. The bank followed up its big talk with no rate action, but the bank’s press conference may offer further insight. The EURO STOXX 50 was up 0.9% ahead of the release, but began trailing off at the ECB’s seeming inaction. This, of course, follows the Fed’s balk from the day before. The iShares S&P Europe 350 (IEV) was about unchanged yesterday. S&P futures were indicating a higher open before the 8:30 economic data releases, and the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) was only off fractionally yesterday. Without any new ideas from the ECB, and given the Fed’s inaction, I expect stocks will look lower Thursday; though depending on all other developing news.
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Retailers report monthly Chain Store Sales all day today, and we have been well prepared for the news. Retail sales slumped a couple weeks ago, and this week’s consumer confidence and personal spending data primed the market (sort of). Consumer Confidence was reported improved by the Conference Board, and served to overshadow the more critical news that personal spending was unchanged in June. It’ll be difficult to take away a general message from the various retailers, including all sorts like department stores Macy’s (NYSE: M) and J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP), discounters like Target (NYSE: TGT) and Costco (Nasdaq: COST), apparel stores like Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF) and The Limited (NYSE: LTD), and specialty stores like Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) and Bed Bath & Beyond (Nasdaq: BBBY). In addition, the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell last week to -38.5, and will be reported again Thursday morning.
Weekly Initial Jobless Claims have been a hot mess in July, due to adjustments to the data for plant closings that proved hard to predict. Maybe this week’s news will offer some new insight. You would expect layoffs to be light in the heat of summer, but with several economic data points showing employer discomfort with their labor counts, maybe not. Last week’s report showed claims fell 35K, to 353K. This news will prove important Thursday. Yesterday’s ADP report offered some hope, with ADP’s estimate indicating a pickup in hiring, but ADP data has cried wolf too often to be trusted.
Factory Orders will be reported at 10:00 AM. Orders rose 0.7% in May, and economists expect 0.7% growth in June too, according to Bloomberg. Economists will be keenly attuned to the report, considering the direction manufacturing appears to be heading in lately. The latest ISM Manufacturing Index showed another month of industry contraction, and continues to shadow over stocks like General Electric (NYSE: GE) and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT). Yesterday, Ford (NYSE: F) and GM (NYSE: GM) reported decreases in domestic sales in July.
The EIA reports on natural gas inventory at 10:30 AM. The last report covering the week ending July 20 showed inventory increased by 26 Bcf, rising to 435 Bcf above the five year average for this time of year. The entire energy sector was impacted by yesterday’s deep draw in petroleum inventory, with the iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Index (NYSE: OIL) higher along with the shares of energy firms Chevron (NYSE: CVX) and others. Encana (NYSE: ECA) and others with a gas focus will be more interested in the natural gas data.
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