A trader chews bubble gum while working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. U.S. stocks fell, giving the Dow Jones Industrial Average its longest slump in 13 months, as minutes of the Federal Reserve's July meeting showed officials support stimulus cuts this year if the economy improves. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK -- Wall Street just went through its weakest three-week period since November, not to mention a panicky spell when the Nasdaq stock market ground to a halt. But that doesn't mean the pain is over.

This week is unlikely to bring much clarity to the primary issue facing markets: when and by how much will the U.S. Federal Reserve slow its accommodative monetary policy. Uncertainty, along with what is expected to be anemic trading heading into the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 2, could make for a volatile week.

"We're cautious about the next few weeks, so we're taking gains now," said Michael Mullaney, who helps oversee about $9.5 billion as chief investment officer at Fiduciary Trust Co. in Boston. "It's not like we're on the precipice of recession, but there's not much for investors to get excited about and we're expecting volatility to pick up."

Traders had hoped that the Fed's meeting minutes issued Wednesday would provide direction about whether the Fed would begin to reduce its $85 billion-a-month of bond-buying in September. Instead, the minutes painted a mixed picture, with some members advocating patience.

The mixed signals create a double-edged sword. While the stimulus has fueled the market's solid gains in 2013, for the Fed to continue its cheap money policy would signal the economy is too weak to advance without intervention. The CBOE Volatility index, a measure of investor anxiety, is up 16.7 percent over the past three weeks.

The Fed has said that the policy change depends on whether the economy meets growth targets, making markets even more sensitive than usual to financial data. This week will see a report every day.

What to Watch This Week

July durable goods orders are due Monday while the final reading for the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index will come Friday. Perhaps the most important will be Thursday's latest estimate of U.S. gross domestic product for the second quarter. The data is expected to show the economy grew a revised 2.2 percent annualized rate last quarter compared with a 1.7 percent reading last month.

While a weak report would be a bearish sign for the economy, some analysts speculated that a strong reading could have negative implications for the market.

"If GDP comes in above 2.5 percent, that could be problematic because it will suggest that the Fed could take a bigger bite out of stimulus than we are currently expecting," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co. in Nashville. "That would put the stock market in jeopardy."

The Standard & Poor's 500 (^GSPC) lost 2.7 percent during the past three weeks, taking the benchmark index below its 50-day moving average for several sessions. The index closed above the technical measure on Friday, but the light volume may be blurring the technical signal and the S&P 500 may find a floor in its 100-day moving average, now at 1,635.81.

"That should serve as pretty decent support," said Douglas DePietro, managing director at Evercore Partners in New York, adding that markets would be range-bound between that level and the S&P's all-time high of 1,709.67, reached earlier this month.

"We'll see a lot of listless trading until the September Fed meeting," he said. "We're in a bit of an information void until then. There aren't a lot of catalysts to look forward to and most of Wall Street is on holiday."

Last week the Dow slid 0.5 percent, the S&P gained 0.5 percent and the Nasdaq added 1.5 percent.

Daily trading volume has been among the lightest of the year in recent sessions, as is typical at this point in the summer. Light volume can amplify market moves, resulting in dramatic intraday swings.

Low volume was dramatically exacerbated on Thursday after a technical issue shut down trading on all Nasdaq issues, equivalent to $5.9 trillion in market capitalization, for more than three hours.

Friday trading was smooth and the day's gains helped the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) end a two-week losing streak, but the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) posted its third consecutive weekly decline.

A few notable companies will report earnings this week, including Tiffany & Co. (TIF), Campbell Soup (CPB) and Joy Global (JOY).

Salesforce.com Inc is also due to report, and investors will scour the results to see if the maker of online sales software can justify its outsized valuation. The stock has a P/E ratio of 99.47, compared with the 15.57 ratio of its peers.

Warnings for third-quarter U.S. earnings are below second-quarter levels but are rising, Thomson Reuters data showed.

Negative outlooks are outpacing positives for the third quarter by 5.1 to 1, up from a little more than 4 to 1 a week ago. The negative-to-positive ratio for the second quarter was 6.3 to 1.

As a result, estimates for third-quarter earnings are down. Growth is estimated at 5.1 percent from a year ago, down from a July 1 estimate of 8.5 percent growth and close to second-quarter's growth of 4.8 percent, with results in from most companies.

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And of course we all know there is nothing more important than investor riches and dividends paid out. The middle class and poor love all that "trickle down" money raining on our heads. All WE SEE is prices jumping on everything we need to live while wages stay the same and or jobs lost overseas to MAX Corporate profits.

August 26 2013 at 7:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Chemical Warfare,,,Obama has not deceided what to do,,,I guess he will go on another college tour and ask them what to do,,since he can not make a grown mans desicision...
And,,what about all the chemicals that is put in our food we do not know about,,and,,all the government experemince that the government does on its people.!!!!!
sorry about spelling.....

August 25 2013 at 7:05 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pdbliz's comment

Time for another presidential vacation.

August 25 2013 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

pass a balanced budget amendment lol fat chance

August 25 2013 at 6:48 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply


August 25 2013 at 4:42 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to betty_brock's comment

Fire the whole darn bunch.!!!!!!!!!

August 25 2013 at 7:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply