Wall St The Week Ahead: Retail figures a clue to Xmas season ahead

THE guessing game about when the Federal Reserve will start to cut its stimulus will enter a new round this week as stock investors dissect minutes from the last central bank meeting, while retail sales and clues about the consumer will also vie for attention.

The minutes for the 29-30 October meeting are due to be released on Wednesday.

Meanwhile sales data will be watched for signals ahead of a holiday shopping season that is not expected to be particularly robust. Results from several top retailers including Home Depot and Best Buy, which is among the S&P 500’s top percentage gainers this year, are also due this week.

Retail sales data for October, due on Wednesday, could keep investors on edge given last month’s partial US government shutdown, which could affect the coming holiday shopping season.

An earnings report from Macy’s last week “was big”, said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management in Chicago. “What people were worried about was the holiday. And now people are saying, ‘Well, maybe the holiday is going to be OK.’”

Besides Home Depot and Best Buy, results are also expected this week from retailer JC Penney, which is seen posting a loss, and from Lowe’s.

This week also brings data on consumer and wholesale inflation.

If the rally goes on, indexes could soon reach significant levels, at least psychologically: the Dow is close to 16,000, while the S&P is near 1,800 and the Nasdaq a little shy of 4,000.