By Noreen Burke
Investing.com -- It’s set to be a busy week in the markets with the Federal Reserve meeting, a series of high-profile earnings and some key economic data on the slate. While no policy changes are expected from the Fed’s two day meeting more details will likely emerge on the tapering discussions that started in June. With equity markets poised at record highs investors will be closely watching earnings from tech heavyweights and on Thursday investors will get a first look at second quarter U.S. GDP growth, which is expected to be the peak of the post-pandemic recovery. Meanwhile, on Friday the euro zone is to release a slew of data, including reports on inflation, GDP and unemployment. Here’s what you need to know to start your week.
- Fed taper talk
The Fed wraps up its two-day meeting on Wednesday and its statement will be scrutinized for any mention of the timeframe for tapering its asset purchase program, although Chairman Jerome Powell made it clear in his recent testimony to Congress that the U.S. economy still needs the central bank's full support.
In June, policymakers began debating when to start cutting monthly purchases of $120 billion of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities.
Powell may indicate that while a discussion on tapering has started, there is still time before officials reach a conclusion on what they will do. Policymakers are expected to highlight the risk from the rapidly spreading Delta variant, which investors worry could derail the economic recovery.
Most analysts expect the Fed to give a clearer indication of its plans for scaling back its quantitative easing program at its annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in late August, before a formal announcement on tapering later in the year.
- Data dump
Aside from the Fed meeting, investors will get an update on the strength of the U.S. economy with an end-of-month data dump.
The highlight is on Thursday with a first look at second quarter GDP and while expectations have been trimmed back in recent weeks, growth is still expected to be strong at 8.6% annualized. This would mark the recovery of all the lost output caused by the pandemic and could be the peak of the post-pandemic recovery.
- Earnings deluge
U.S. earnings are kicking into high gear and investors will be watching the largest tech names to gauge whether a recent shift away from reflation trade and into growth stocks that led markets for the last decade will continue.
FAANG stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ), and Google parent Alphabet - are usually known for delivering stellar stock market returns. But only Facebook and Alphabet have beaten the S&P 500 so far this year as investors piled into financials, energy firms and other companies that should benefit from the post pandemic economic rebound.
Other earnings results that will be in the spotlight include Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ), Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA ), Boeing (NYSE: BA ), Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ), Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ), Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) and McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD ).
- Market volatility
Growth and value stocks seesawed for much of last week as investors weighed the surging Delta variant against upbeat earnings results and economic data.
"There’s push and pull, there’s clearly conflict in the market," Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina told Reuters. "There’s a strong difference of opinion as to whether the future’s bright or whether there are clouds on the horizon."
All three major U.S. stock indexes closed at record highs on Friday, with the Dow closing above 35,000 for the first time ever following a volatile week as risk appetite waxed and waned. On Monday the S&P 500 recorded its steepest one-day drop since May before going on to post its biggest one-day jump since March a day later.
Earnings and data could soothe or exacerbate market angst in the coming week.
- Euro area recovery
In the euro zone, second quarter GDP data on Friday will give investors some insight in the strength of the bloc’s economic recovery from a double dip recession as vaccinations pick up.
Meanwhile, inflation figures the same day are expected to show inflation hit the European Central Bank’s 2% target in July. The ECB has said inflation may be allowed temporarily to exceed its target when "especially forceful or persistent" monetary support is needed.
Last Thursday ECB President Christine Lagarde said a fresh wave of the coronavirus pandemic could pose a risk to the euro zone's economic recovery after the bank hinted at an even longer period of monetary support at its latest policy meeting.
--Reuters contributed to this report
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