What to watch in the week ahead
Investors remain inclined to take markets higher in the absence of anything that would suggest equities should fall. The market seems to have hit a stage where strong data helps and weak data affirms the Fed's intentions to keep policy accommodative, which also helps stocks. More data, including consumer inflation, retail sales and Fed minutes, should bolster the case that the economic outlook is trending upward, but only slowly.
Retail data could show some drag from last month's 16-day government shutdown, which has not been evident in key data for October released so far. The Commerce Department is expected to report on Wednesday that retail sales edged up and core retail sales are seen gaining as well. Also on Wednesday, the Labor Department releases consumer price data for October. Existing home sales are expected to have declined for a second straight month in October, a sign the housing market is cooling in the face of higher mortgage rates.
Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke retakes the spotlight a week after his presumed successor Janet Yellen revealed little new about the U.S. central bank's policy intentions or economic outlook at her Senate confirmation hearing. Bernanke speaks at the National Economics Club on Tuesday, highlighting a week in which New York Fed President William Dudley and eight other U.S. central bankers give speeches around the country.
With less than five weeks to go before the Fed's key policy meeting on Dec. 17-18, investors are keen to know whether the improving economic data will be enough to bring about the first reduction in asset purchases, or whether the Fed might wait to make its move when Yellen takes the reins next year.
Discount retailer Target Corp is expected on Thursday to report modest sales gains for the third quarter, and investors will be eager to see whether business in Canada has picked up after a weak debut in that market this year and what it expects consumer demand in the United States to be this holiday season. Also look for quarterly results from Home Depot, Best Buy, Campbell Soup, and Medtronic on Tuesday; Lowe's, Deere & Co, JC Penney and Staples on Wednesday; and Sears, GameStop and GAP on Thursday.
Microsoft on Tuesday holds its annual shareholder meeting a few miles from its campus in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue. Microsoft faces a more voluble shareholder base which has already played a role in CEO Steve Ballmer's retirement and has pressed even for Bill Gates to step down as Chairman.
On Wednesday Qualcomm holds its annual investor day in New York where it is likely to outline upcoming wireless and computing products it believes will help it maintain its technological lead over rivals.
Intel's recently appointed CEO Brian Krzanich on Thursday is expected to use his first annual investor day to underscore changes he has made to help the chipmaker catch up in mobile.
On the same day, Transocean is expected to spell out a new strategy for boosting yields. Having just struck a deal with Carl Icahn after battling all year over the dividend, the company is likely to discuss with analysts its plans for a master limited partnership-type vehicle for some of its rigs, as well as the state of the global offshore drilling market.
Mexican gross domestic product data due on Thursday is expected to show the economy bounced back in the third quarter, growing 0.7 percent after shrinking for the first time in four years in the prior quarter. Inflation data for the first half of November on Friday is expected to show the annual rate edging up from a nine-month low to 3.31 percent.
Canadian inflation data out on Friday is expected to show annual price gains were still near the bottom of the central bank's 1-to-3 percent target range in October, suggesting little need to tighten monetary policy in the near to medium term. The year-on-year inflation rate is seen slipping to 0.9 percent from 1.1 percent in September.
The latest data and research on the treatment of heart patients will be presented at the American Heart Association scientific meeting in Dallas starting on Saturday and running through Wednesday. Studies include the largest ever of atrial fibrillation patients taking one of the new blood thinners for preventing stroke - Daiichi Sankyo's experimental edoxaban, one-year data on patients taking Amgen's closely watched cholesterol fighter evolocumab from a new class of medicines called PCSK9 inhibitors, and data on an experimental reversal agent for Boehringer Ingleheim's blood thinner Pradaxa that could be used in case of need for emergency surgery.
Boeing looks set to dominate the Dubai Airshow with more than $100 billion of deals as it aims to launch its latest long-haul jet with close to 250 potential orders from five airlines. In other transportation news, the Los Angeles Auto Show starts on Friday.
Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat processor, posts quarterly results. The company has been on a roll with chicken and beef businesses of late. The company may address whether its smaller pork unit is seeing any impact from the deadly piglet virus that its rival Hillshire Brands warned has driven up prices.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on legislation, already passed by the House, that would give the Food and Drug Administration greater authority to regulate companies that compound sterile drugs and ship them across state lines. Movement to regulate compounding comes after a 2012 meningitis outbreak that killed more than 50 people and was traced to a tainted steroid produced at a lab outside Boston. Passing the bill would be a rare moment of bipartisanship for the bitterly divided Congress.
JinkoSolar Holding, the first Chinese solar panel maker to turn profitable after a two-year slump in the sector, is likely to be in the black for a second straight quarter. Solar companies are just recovering from a four-year long slide in panel prices, caused by excess manufacturing capacity in China and weak demand.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley speaks at Queens College in Flushing, N.Y., and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser speaks on the economic outlook in Philadelphia.
NASA's next mission to Mars, which aims to solve the mystery of Mars' lost water, launches in Florida. The probe joins a pair of rovers and a fleet of orbiters collecting information about why a planet so similar to Earth ended up so differently.