WALL STREET WEEK AHEAD

THE big money is calling a halt to the surge in stock prices. Declines in oil and metals prices are being seen by an increasing number of fund managers and strategists as a signal to get out of riskier areas of the equity market. And that means avoiding things like Chinese IPOs and sticking to the boring stuff, like utilities.

The growing concern is that stocks had priced in an overly optimistic economic path, and the recent breakdown in commodities and shift in equities to safer industries such as health care, suggest a reckoning in coming months.

Ken Fisher, founder of Fisher Investments that manages about $38bn in equities, is among those concerned many investors have become overconfident.

“I think expectations for the stock market are a bit on the high side,” he said.

The thesis that the economy may be slowing will be tested this week with the publication of two regional manufacturing reports from the New York and Philadelphia regions. They are a precursor to the bigger national ISM surveys published next month.

However, some say there is room for the market to move higher before taking a turn for the worse.

Bullish investors point to robust first-quarter earnings. Just fewer than three quarters of S&P 500 companies beat Wall Street’s earnings estimates and investors have pointed to sturdy revenue growth. The S&P’s index of retail stocks recently hit all-time highs.

This week there will be earnings from some important retailers, including the nation’s largest, Wal-Mart Stores, home improvement companies Lowes Companies and Home Depot, as well as teen clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.

Commodities have been at the forefront of the selling so far. Big rallies in hard assets such as gold, silver and oil ended in an ugly slump last week.