New economic data set to test Wall Street bull run
New US economic data in the coming week will test the resilience of Wall Street as US shares scaled fresh highs for the year on upbeat remarks by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke and buoyant housing data.
All three major market indexes were resting at new 2009 peaks at the end of trading Friday, buoyed by a record jump in existing-home sales in July and Bernanke's comments that recovery prospects "appear good" in the near term for the United States and the rest of the world after the worst slump in six decades.
The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 184.56 points or 1.9 percent for the week to finish at 9,505.96 on Friday. The blue-chip index had not finished above 9,500 since early November and has now climbed about 45 percent from its March low.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite leapt 35.38 points (1.7 percent) to 2,020.90 and the broad-market Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 22.04 points (2.1 percent) to 1,026.13 -- the third consecutive weekly close atop the millennium level.
Analysts said new data next week, including a second preliminary estimate of US gross domestic product (GDP) for the second quarter on Thursday, would be critical in gauging market resilience.
The initial estimate showed the US economy contracting 1.0 percent in the April-June period following a severe 6.4 percent contraction in the first quarter.
Most analysts expect the new estimate to show a greater contraction of 1.4 percent.
"The market might be due for a pullback, but we view that as a healthy shakeout and remain constructive on the overall market and economic outlook," analysts at Charles Schwab and Co. said in a note to clients.
"Despite investor sentiment getting a bit overly optimistic -- usually a contrarian indicator -- we remain largely constructive on the market," they said.
Other data could prove soothing to the market.
Analysts expect rises in the Conference Board's August consumer confidence index and the Commerce Department's July durable goods orders and new-home sales that would further boost expectations that the US economy has hit bottom.
There will also be fresh data on personal income and consumption that will evaluate the mood of US consumers, who remains the weak link in the recovery.
In a further sign that the recession in the world's largest economy was easing, the National Association of Realtors reported Friday that US existing-home sales surged 7.2 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.24 million units.
"This was the fourth consecutive rise in demand, the first time we have seen that in five years," said Joel Naroff, chief economist of Naroff Economic Advisors. "The housing market has lifted off."
IHS Global Insight US economist Patrick Newport said new data in the coming week "will be mostly positive, showing an economy slowly on the mend."
Even so, some market analysts have expressed caution.
"The month of August has indeed been one of a churning correction that slowly is removing the excesses built up from the March 9 lows," said Wells Fargo Advisors chief market strategist Al Goldman.
"We thus believe next week probably holds some additional correction action."
Bonds fell the past week amid the stock rally. The yield on the 10-year Treasury bonds dropped to 3.556 from 3.558 the week earlier and that on the 30-year bond fell to 4.359 from 4.406. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions.