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Wall St. Week Ahead: Market to shift into lower gear as earnings, data fade

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Keith Bedford
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With earnings season winding down and the employment report out of the way, the U.S. stock market is likely to shift into a lower gear next week.

The earnings season so far has been largely positive with more than half of the companies that have reported beating estimates. But cuts in outlooks from a number of bellwethers, including Intel and Caterpillar , mainly due to increasing concerns over China's growth, have raised fears about the third and fourth quarters.

"It has sort of become a trend now to go into earnings season with low expectations, so beating those expectations is not a big deal," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

"The market is starting to really look at outlook cuts and guidance more than earnings itself."

The market is also likely to trade sideways next week after the Dow and the S&P 500 marked record closing highs for a second day on Friday.

For the year, both the Dow and the S&P 500 are up more than 19 percent.

The S&P 500 index has passed through two century marks this year - 1,600 and 1,700. The last time the broad market index covered more round numbers in a year was in 1998 when it touched 1,000, 1,100 and 1,200, according to Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Of the 391 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings for the second quarter, 67.8 percent have topped analyst expectations, in line with the average beat over the past four quarters, data from Thomson Reuters showed. About 55 percent have reported revenue above estimates, more than in the past four quarters but below the historical average.

Negative outlooks for the third quarter from S&P companies have outpaced positive outlooks by 3.7 to 1 so far in this earnings season, according to Thomson Reuters data. Last quarter, the ratio was 6.3 to 1, but on average since 1996, the ratio stands at 2.1 to 1.

So far this earnings season, just 75 companies have given guidance and about 50 more companies are expected to give their outlook in the coming weeks. During last quarter's earnings season, 127 S&P companies gave guidance.

FED CONCERNS

The market will be closely watching remarks by U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers next week for more clues on when the U.S. central bank might begin to reduce bond-buying stimulus , despite mixed signals from the jobs market.

The latest jobs report on Friday showed non-farm payrolls rose by 162,000 in July, below expectations, but the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, its lowest since December 2008.

On Tuesday, the president of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, Charles Evans, is scheduled to speak at a press breakfast, while Richard Fisher, head of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, is to deliver a speech on the economy in Portland, Oregon, on Monday.

Elsewhere, the Bank of Japan holds its monetary policy board meeting on Wednesday and Thursday. The BoJ is expected to keep monetary policy on hold as its unprecedented quantitative easing and government stimulus gradually spread through the economy.

Among companies due to report earnings next week, CVS Caremark posts second-quarter results on Tuesday. McDonald's Corp is to report July restaurant sales on Thursday. Also on Thursday, Dean Foods Co , the top U.S. dairy company, posts quarterly results.

In economic news, weekly jobless claims on Thursday could offer clues about the labor market conditions following Friday's mixed jobs report. Institute for Supply Management (ISM) report on the services sector is due on Monday, and June trade data is due on Tuesday.

(Reporting By Angela Moon; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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