Trump heads abroad, the Fed moves forward, and earnings wind down


Trump heads abroad, the Fed moves forward, and earnings wind down

If the stock market is going to keep setting new records, it will have to do so without President Donald Trump around. Oh, Trump is still going to be active, no doubt. But he'll be far from the action as he begins a big world tour with a slew of business leaders in tow. Elsewhere in the investing world, earnings season is coming down the home stretch with a few notable names yet to report, and we'll get a few more clues about the direction of the economy.

The Trump trip

After an eventful week in which the Republicans rolled out their long-awaited tax reform plan, the president will now switch to an international agenda, with a trip through the Asia-Pacific region in an effort to drum up economic development. The tour begins in Japan, where Trump will meet with Emperor Akihito. Then, he'll do lunch with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. From there, Trump heads off to South Korea, China, the Phillipines, Vietnam and Hawaii. In all, he will be gone until Nov. 14. The trip will be watched on a number of fronts. A wide assortment of corporate leaders will join the president, hoping to convey that the U.S. is serious about changing the perception that it is hostile to business growth. The new tax-reform plan, which slashes the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, will send an important message to that effect. The rest will be up to Trump.

The Fed forward

Last week was a big one for the Federal Reserve — we now know who the next chair probably will be, and we learned more about where the central bank stands on the economy. Trump announced that he wants current Fed Governor Jerome Powell to take over as chairman after Janet Yellen's term expires in February. In the week ahead, we'll get to hear from a few top Fed officials and get some idea of what may be ahead. Most interestingly, this week's Fedspeak calendar will feature the first public remarks from the newest member. Trump appointee Randal Quarles will speak Tuesday in New York, where he'll be part of a panel discussion on bank regulations. Quarles is expected to take questions afterwards. Yellen actually also has a public appearance scheduled Tuesday as well, in Washington, D.C. However, her remarks are not expected to include anything on policy. New York Fed President William Dudley speaks Monday on lessons learned from the financial crisis.

Economy, earnings and taxes

There are a handful of reports on tap for the week ahead as investors look to see what kind of momentum the economy has heading into the end of the year. Tuesday will feature the National Federation of Independent Business's gauge on small business sentiment and the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, an important gauge of trends in the employment picture. Also remember that the NFIB came out last week against the tax-reform plan. Thursday will see the weekly jobless claims report, while Friday's feature will look at consumer sentiment. On earnings, about three-quarters of S&P 500 companies have reported for earnings season, with 74 percent beating Wall Street estimates. Towards the end of the week, some of the home builders and retailers will report, with D.R. Horton and Macy's both on tap Thursday, the same day as Disney. Finally, Congress will begin hashing through the tax-reform plan this week, with the House Ways and Means Committee taking its first swing at the proposal on Monday.

The last word

Yellen got off to a bit of rough start but the market eventually decided it had a friend at the Fed, and she presided over a continuation of the post-crisis rally. So far, investors also seem to be OK with Powell at the helm. However, he will have challenges ahead of him that his most immediate predecessors did not face — namely, how to navigate an economy where Washington is looking to inject still more cash and inflation finally could become an issue. Lindsey Piegza, the chief economist at Stifel Fixed Income, does an apt job of summarizing the market's view at this point: "With a pro-growth, low rate and reduced regulatory platform in mind, the Trump administration has nominated Governor Jerome Powell to replace Chair Yellen in 2018. Widely viewed as a consensus builder, Powell is expected to be more tolerant of a stronger growth profile and more rapid inflation relative to Chair Yellen, who has consistently targeted a "moderate" growth rate. Hoping to stimulate the economy and sustain improvement, the White House is stacking the deck — or should we say Fed — with like-minded officials who will welcome and promote the Trump agenda."