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The Dow Is Eerily Calm – But Next Week Could Be Menacingly Volatile

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:53 PM
Francois Aure
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:53 PM
  • The Dow Jones rallied on Friday as the U.S. stock market ended the week on a note of relative calm.
  • President Trump signed another $484 billion stimulus package to support small businesses.
  • Dow bulls are bracing for volatility, with a tidal wave of earnings, Q1 GDP, and the FOMC meeting all upcoming next week.

The Dow Jones traded mostly sideways on Friday as Wall Street braced for what could be a week filled with menacing volatility as April gives way to May.

Nearly half of the Dow’s 30 stocks will publish earnings, the Federal Reserve meets Wednesday, and first-quarter GDP will reveal just how much the coronavirus pandemic has already devastated the U.S. economy.

Dow Jones Limps Higher on a Quiet Day for Wall Street

Dow Jones, stock market, Earnings, Dow 30, GDP, FOMC
The Dow Jones was calm on Friday ahead of the FOMC meeting, Q1 GDP, and a deluge of Dow 30 earnings next week. | Source: Yahoo Finance 

The major U.S. equity indices  all rallied on Friday, though the stock market looks poised to snap a two-week winning streak thanks to big losses on Monday and Tuesday

  • The Dow rose 184.07 points or 0.78% to 23,699.33.
  • The S&P 500 gained 1.09% to trade at 2,828.28.
  • The Nasdaq climbed 1.26% to 8,602.13.

Crude oil received another bump, posting a 4% rally as the oil rig count collapsed again, this time by 64.

Nevertheless, the oil price remains well off even the $20 handle at $17 per barrel. Its stabilization is proving to be a support for the Dow, but low prices will remain a drag on the United States economy.

What Moved the Dow Jones on Friday

Congress passed its $484 billion stimulus package for small businesses  overnight. This helped boost stocks briefly, but the impact looks to have been well priced into the Dow Jones.

Economic data was weak, as Michigan consumer sentiment showed a big dip once again, though the reading of 70.1 was marginally better than economists’ expectations.

Yet core durable goods orders smashed forecasts. The unexpectedly muted 0.2% dip was a rare bright spot after weeks of rough data.

Meanwhile, the U.S. coronavirus outbreak hit a grim milestone on Friday. Deaths moved above 50,000 and now account for more than 25% of confirmed deaths worldwide.

Stock Market Eyes U.S. GDP & FOMC Meeting Next Week

Looking ahead to next week’s most important events for the stock market, Wednesday will be the day to watch. The Federal Reserve will meet to decide on interest rates, and Q1 GDP will be released for the United States.

With a sizable contraction anticipated, the current consensus expectation is for a negative 4% reading. Economists at ING are more pessimistic , looking at the destruction in retail as they forecast a 6% dive in productivity,

The first-quarter GDP will be the headline figure to watch and is likely to highlight the gravity of the economic downturn. After a very strong January and February, activity has ground to a halt in March with the economy having lost the best part of 27 million jobs in the past five weeks.

Retail activity outside of groceries has practically collapsed and manufacturing surveys have reported plummeting activity. Given this situation, we look for the economy to have contracted 6% annualised in Q1 with much worse to come in 2Q.

Rough economic data has failed to move the Dow Jones meaningfully lower so far, but momentum is stalling in the stock market.

Hopes of quickly shrugging off the virus and returning to normal life have faded, and the positive shock from the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented balance sheet expansion is beginning to fade.

Dow Stocks: Earnings Tsunami Starts on Monday

There was an eerie calm hanging over the Dow 30 on Friday, as the majority of the index moved 1% or less ahead of a deluge of earnings presentations.

Dow Jones, Dow 30, Earnings, stock market
Just under half of the Dow 30 will report earnings next week. | Source: FINSCREENER 

Thirteen Dow Jones members will report next week, headlined by four of the index’s biggest names:

  • Caterpillar (Tuesday)
  • Boeing (Wednesday)
  • Microsoft (Wednesday)
  • Apple (Thursday)

Chevron and Exxon Mobil are honorable mentions given the recent turmoil in the oil markets and their surprising resilience to the sudden plunge in crude. Both companies report on Friday.

Boeing stock struggled, falling nearly 6% on reports that the 737 MAX won’t fly again until late summer at the earliest.

Apple rallied 2%, while Home Depot led the way with a 4.5% gain.