WALL ST looks to Fed, ECB to deliver stimulus

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Investors face US and European central bank meetings next week hoping to see fresh action to spur economies damaged by the eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
Over the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.97 percent, finishing above 13,000 points for the first time since early May. The blue-chip index of 30 stocks finished Friday at 13,075.66, the highest close since May 4, and the second day of triple-digit gains.
The tech-rich Nasdaq advanced 1.12 percent, to 2,958.09 points. The Standard & Poor’s 500, a broad measure of the markets leaped 1.71 percent to 1,385.97 points. “Stocks rallied throughout the day on speculation that the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank are close to providing further stimulus,” analysts at Wells Fargo Advisors said. All eyes will be on the Federal Reserve when it wraps up a two-day policy meeting Wednesday.
Economists are divided over whether the central bank’s Federal Open Market Committee will announce additional stimulus for the slowing economy, or wait for more information. The world’s largest economy slowed in the second quarter as consumers cut back spending on big-ticket items, official data showed Friday.
The Commerce Department said that gross domestic product growth fell to a 1.5 percent annual rate from 2.0 percent in the first quarter, fueled a big rally on Wall Street, which had expected a worse reading.
Economists say the economy is set to muddle along in the third quarter amid risks from Europe and fears of the government’s year-end tax hikes and spending cuts they could push the country back into recession.
“The outlook is worse than the Federal Reserve’s June projections, and as a result we expect to see another round of quantitative easing from the Fed,” said Nigel Gault, chief US economist at IHS Global Insight.
“But we expect the Fed to wait until September to act — which would allow it to see two more monthly employment reports —, rather than move at next week’s meeting,” he added.
The big week for macroeconomic news culminates Friday with the keenly awaited July US jobs report. Expectations are for the unemployment rate to hold unchanged at 8.2 percent, and sluggish jobs growth to continue.
With markets on tenterhooks over the eurozone’s fate as debt-laden Greece looks headed for an exit and yields on sovereign debt of Italy and Spain surge higher, investors will be looking across the pond to the European Central Bank’s meeting Thursday. ECB president Mario Draghi’s comments that the bank was “ready to do whatever it takes” to preserve the euro on Thursday sparked massive equities rallies.
Pledges by the leaders of Germany and France on Friday to do “everything” to save the shared currency further eased concerns.
In a joint statement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande pledged to do “everything to protect the eurozone.”
Wall Street put on an impressive comeback late in the week, after stocks plunged Monday on eurozone crisis fears and the Dow closed Tuesday with triple-digit losses for the third straight day. Better-than-expected earnings reports from Merck, ExxonMobil and Boeing, among others, spurred bullish sentiment.
Consumers will be in focus on next week’s economic calendar, starting Tuesday with personal income and spending numbers and a July reading on consumer confidence.
Auto sales data for July arrive Wednesday. The closely watched Institute for Supply Management’s PMI indices on manufacturing and services are due Wednesday and Friday, respectively.