World Week Ahead: US tech earnings in focus

By Margreet Dietz

Jan 21 (BusinessDesk) – US corporate earnings will take centre stage with Apple, Microsoft, IBM and Google among those scheduled to release in the coming days.

So far, about 72 percent of the 67 S&P 500 companies which have reported quarterly results beat analysts' forecasts, according to Bloomberg News.

Results from General Electric and Morgan Stanley were among those that pleased investors on Friday, while shares of Intel copped a beating, reporting sagging sales after the market closed on Thursday.

After a weak start, Wall Street found momentum in the second half of last week that lifted it to five-year highs as the latest signs on earnings and the US economy proved positive, or at least better than expected, while House Republicans said they will agree to a temporary lift in the nation's debt ceiling.

The vote on a three-month extension to the US$16.4 trillion borrowing limit—set to be surpassed sometime from mid-February to early March¸ according to the Treasury Department—will take place on Wednesday.

The debt-ceiling vote is part of a rethink by House Republicans to get Senate Democrats onside with a budget that details spending cuts.

“We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem,” Speaker John Boehner said in a statement late last week.

In the past week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.2 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 0.9 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.3 percent. Both Dow and S&P 500 finished the week at their highest level in five years.

And equities seem to be extending their appeal when compared against fixed-income securities.

"From a yield perspective, a lot of stocks still yield a great deal of money and so it is very easy to see why money is pouring into the stock market," Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco, told Reuters. "You are just not going to see people put a lot of money to work in a 10-year Treasury that yields 1.8 percent."

On Monday, US markets are closed for the Martin Luther King Jr holiday. In Washington on Sunday, President Obama will take the oath of office to mark the official start of his second four-year term.

On the economic front, the coming days will see reports on the housing market—existing home sales on Tuesday, the FHFA house price index on Wednesday and new homes sales on Friday.

Other data include the Chicago Fed national activity index and the Richmond Fed manufacturing index, both due Tuesday, as well as the PMI manufacturing index flash and leading indicators, both due Thursday.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index edged less than 0.1 percent lower last week. The World Bank predicted another contraction for the euro-zone economy this year, while Germany downgraded its expectations for growth of Europe's largest economy in 2013.

Euro zone finance ministers are set to gather for their first meeting of 2013 on Monday with Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem poised to become president of the Eurogroup.

Policy makers at the Bank of Japan are meeting this week and are expected to announce further measures to halt deflation which may include open-ended asset purchases. In anticipation, the yen last week slid further against both the euro and the greenback.

"Expectations are nearly universal for a shift from a 1 percent to a 2 percent inflation target, including upsized [asset buying] measures," Dan Dorrow, head of research at FX broker Faros Trading in Stamford, Connecticut, told Reuters. "Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe and the political class as a whole have a very compelling need to push BoJ into a regime change and keep it there. The political pressure on the BoJ will not abate."

(BusinessDesk)

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