By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investors will watch for any change in the economic outlook from housing data and remarks by various Federal Reserve speakers next week, while retailers will take over on the earnings front as the first-quarter reporting season trickles to its end.
The highlight comes at the end of the week with Fed Chair Janet Yellen speaking on the economic outlook on Friday. Any hint of a downgrade to the economy could signal a delay in monetary policy tightening; central bank watchers now expect the Fed to begin raising interest rates in September.
Yellen will be preceded by Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, who will talk about policy on Monday and Wednesday in Europe. The San Francisco Fed’s John Williams takes his turn on Thursday, a day after minutes of the Fed’s April meeting are due.
Yellen signaled earlier this year that the Fed will likely start raising borrowing costs later this year, even before inflation and wages have returned to normal levels.
“From Yellen, markets want to know whether or not she continues with that direction,” said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.
“Any color that you can give to the debate on expectations for liftoff will certainly be picked up by the market.”
On the earnings front, the week’s top billing will be the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart <WMT.N>, which will report early on Tuesday.
The results will come less than a week after data showed U.S. retail sales were flat in April, the latest sign the economy was struggling to rebound strongly after a very soft first quarter.
Wal-Mart, however, is seen beating first-quarter expectations on the top and bottom lines, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data.
Housing data in the form of starts and permits is due Tuesday, while home resales are out on Thursday.
“If we have an 8 percent rise in starts to a million homes, that would be a good sign that the spring bounce is back,” said Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
“If we fall short of a million, that doesn’t augur well for the economic recovery.”
Housing starts are expected to have risen in April to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.02 million units from 926,000 in March.
Home Depot <HD.N> will report results on Tuesday, followed by Lowe’s <LOW.N> on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Dan Grebler)