Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Week Ahead - 1st Quarter Homestretch

The first quarter is just about history and that will bring both anticipation and angst as "earnings season" approaches in just a few weeks. Zack's estimates median earnings growth for Q1 '07 of 8.3% for the S&P 500 companies. Earnings growth in the 4th quarter came in at nearly 13%. In a separate post late Sunday I will take a look at how the stock market might behave in the week ahead.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke has been summoned to testify on Capitol Hill before the Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday. Committee Chair, NY Senator Chuck Schumer says Bernanke will be quizzed about the subprime fiasco as well as inflation and the overall direction of the economy. The testimony starts at 9:30 ET followed by q&a.

The economic calendar features the New Home Sales data right off the bat at 10 ET on Monday morning. After tumbling more than 16% in January, sales are expected to show a modest rebound in February to an annual rate of 980,000. On Tuesday Conference Board Consumer Confidence is expected to fall by more than 5 points to 107 for March. The final revision of 4th quarter GDP comes out Thursday and it's expected to remain at 2.2% while Jobless claims might tick up by 4k to 320k. Friday is going to be a big day for economic data. At 8:30 Personal Income and Spending numbers will be released, likely to show income and spending both up by 3-tenths. The NAPM Chicago Purchasing Managers Index is then released at 9:45 and expected to show a rise to 49, which still indicates business conditions in the Chicago region are contracting. U of Michigan Consumer Sentiment is expected to hold steady at 88.

Major earnings reports:
Monday - Dollar General (DG), Tiffany (TIF), Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. (PVH)
Tuesday - Lennar (LEN), McCormick Co. Inc. (MKC) , H.B. Fuller Co. (FUL)
Wednesday - Paychex (PAYX), Sonic (SONC)
Thursday - Carmax (KMX), AG Edwards (AGE), Family Dollar Stores Inc. (FDO), Solectron Corp. (SLR), Worthington Industries Inc. (WOR), Finish Line Inc. Cl A (FINL)
Friday - Global Payments Inc. (GPN)

End of quarter is the deadline that was set by H&R Block (HRB) to sell its troubled Option One mortgage division, already classified as discontinued operations by the company. Block has been seeking $1.3 bln for the operations, seen by many analysts as an unlikely prospect.

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