Markets anxious for data

Investor attention will turn to a number of economic reports out of the U.S. this week as they look for signs the world’s largest economy is in fact on track with its recovery.

Investor attention will turn to a number of economic reports out of the U.S. this week as they look for signs the world’s largest economy is in fact on track with its recovery.

On Monday, the U.S. Commerce Department will release its retail sales data for April and figures on business inventories for the month of March.

The U.S. Federal Reserve will also be releasing its industrial production numbers for April, which will include the latest figures from the manufacturing and automotive sectors.

Last month, U.S. industrial output rose to 0.4 per cent in March. It’s expected that the growth will slow again between April to June, as the impact of government spending cuts and higher social security taxes begin to take its toll on the economy.

“There’s a lot of information that’s coming down the pipe,” said Andrew Pyle, a portfolio manager with Scotia McLeod.

“These will be closely watched for signs of whether or not the fiscal austerity measures, or what they call sequestration, has had an impact or not on the second quarter.”

The U.S. indexes have surged to record highs in recent weeks, boosted by positive corporate earnings, signs that momentum may be building in the U.S. economic recovery and that Europe’s debt crisis may be easing.

The Dow closed above 15,000 for the first time last week, while the S&P 500 closed above 1,600 for earlier this month.

Pyle said this week is the beginning of the “economic data parade” in the U.S., and could drive the markets back down if they’re not rosy.

“We really get into the meat of what’s going on at the start of the second quarter, and that’s where the markets will take their cue, I believe,” he said. “If we see second quarter activity that doesn’t look great, that is a potential catalyst for this market or the equity market to roll back.”

Other U.S. economic indicators to come include the weekly jobless claims numbers and housing starts for last month.

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada will release the consumer price index for April on Friday.

Kevin Headland with Manulife Asset Management said markets will be looking at the big picture out of all these reports.

“Markets tend to move on the basis of the fundamental trend there. There is often immediate reaction but cooler heads often prevail,” he said.

“I expect the numbers to be somewhat decent next week, but I think the U.S. as a whole is looking much better from both a fundamentals perspective and in equities.”

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