Apple reports earnings in a hectic week for markets, with a Fed meeting and jobs report also on tap


Apple reports earnings in a hectic week for markets, with a Fed meeting and jobs report also on tap

Tech bellwether Apple leads the earnings parade in the week ahead, as market focus also shifts to the Fed's mid-week meeting and Friday's jobs report. About a quarter of S&P 500 companies report in what will be the last big week for second-quarter earnings. Earnings are up about 22.6 percent over last year and are beating estimates at a pace of 4-to-1. Caterpillar, Procter and Gamble, DowDuPont, Pfizer and Tesla are among the names reporting, but Apple will be the most widely watched. According to analytics firm Kensho, Apple in the past 12 quarters has had an average move of 4 percent, in either direction, on the day after its report. Apple follows a string of tech earnings that have been largely positive, with the glaring exceptions of Facebook and Twitter, which both had massive sell-offs after disappointing forecasts. "Obviously, you've got Facebook and Twitter on one side of the ledger, and you have Amazon on the other. Apple doesn't have privacy issues, and I think Apple is generally going to be in pretty good shape," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Management. "Obviously the question is about trade issues. Is there any upset with their supply chain?" Ablin said Apple could influence the market overall because "it has tentacles all over the economy and [market] indices."

July's employment report is released Friday, and 195,000 jobs are expected ,while the unemployment rate is expected to fall to 3.9 percent from 4 percent, according to Thomson Reuters. The key number to watch — average hourly earnings — is expected to continue its slow creep higher, rising 0.3 percent or 2.7 percent on an annual basis. "There's a package of data, but I think the Fed statement is going to be important," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. "The market is trying to assess. Right now, September is a done deal. ... Do they see something in the tariff issues and in the economic data that perhaps softens their stance?" The Fed meets Tuesday and Wednesday, but little is expected from the meeting, and it does not include a press conference. The next interest-rate hike is not expected until September, and the Fed is unlikely to give much in the way of new guidance about policy. Krosby said the question is whether the Fed offers any guidance that will provide clues about whether they are on track for another rate hike in December.

Concerns about trade wars faded somewhat in the past week, after President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said they would discuss trade issues and not implement any more tariffs during the talks. The Trump administration was also making progress with Mexico toward a revision of the NAFTA trade agreement. But trade will be a focus Wednesday when $16 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods are expected to be implemented, and China is expected to put tariffs on U.S. goods in return. Administration officials have said talks with China have basically stalled, which is another reason analysts expect progress with Europe and on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

"I think the market is basically putting it on the back burner now, until new information comes in. I think the fact the president did come up with that truce with the EU was helpful, and then he made a comment that Mexico is next. Something big is going to happen with Mexico," Krosby said. "The market realizes he does seem under pressure to ease these strident comments, [from] having business plans put on hold, and it was clear also the farmers are not crazy about the bailout."

Bond traders are watching Tokyo next week after rumblings about a Bank of Japan policy change have been sending yields sharply higher. The 10-year Treasury rose to 2.98 percent Friday ahead of the second-quarter GDP report but was back to about 2.96 percent after the report of solid 4.1 percent growth failed to match the loftiest forecasts above 5 percent. Yields move opposite price, and the U.S. 10-year yield has long been kept artificially depressed by the easy policies of global central banks. The last time the 10-year yield was at 3 percent was June 13, the day of the last FOMC meeting, when the Fed raised interest rates by 25 basis points. The 10-year yield reached the year high of 3.12 percent on May 18. "The BOJ is probably more important than the Fed next week," said Lee Ferridge, head of macro strategy, North America at State Street. He said the Bank of Japan could consider changing its policy of ending its targeting of the 10-year yield at zero, but more likely it could just hint at a change later on. "If the JGBs (Japanese government bond yields) move up, we could see the 10-year yield pushing back above 3 percent, certainly. If the BOJ does this, it's bad for risk generally, including stocks," he said. Ferridge noted that the European Central Bank is winding down its asset purchases, moving away from the easy stance it adopted during the European debt crisis.

Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR, said if the 10-year yield, which moves opposite price, does hit 3 percent, it should not be a problem for stocks unless it continues to shoot higher. A continued flattening of the yield curve would be a bigger concern. "We get more scared if the 10-year doesn't move up as much in yield as the 2-year does," he said. The spread between the two yields, at 27 Friday, has been closely watched by the markets, since a flattening curve can be a warning about the economy, and one that actually inverts is viewed as a recession warning. "In an ultimate move in the 10-year yield back over 3 percent, equities don't get sold on that unless the 2-year moves up higher and faster," said Hogan. "If we get a new high on the yield, that's also a new flavor." "The last time it happened, the market freaked out. Then it calmed down again," Hogan said. The stock market will take a 3-percent 10-year in stride "unless we break out to a new cycle high or the increase in the 10-year is matched by a faster pace and yield in the 2-year," he said.