NEW YORK – After a dizzying two weeks that saw a rapid plunge and rebound in equity prices, investors are looking forward to a week of economic data that may provide clarity on the likelihood of a near-term U.S. interest rate hike and help tamp down the market's recent wild swings.
The economic figures will culminate in Friday's jobs report that should reveal more about the strength of the U.S. economy. Car sales, construction spending, the Federal Reserve's "beige book" and jobs growth may show the economy is strong enough to withstand the first rate hike in nearly a decade from the Federal Reserve, despite worries about a hard landing for China's economy.
Global stock markets were stung by severe swings in recent weeks, stoked by concerns that a slowdown in China's economy may be more harsh than anticipated.
But after confirming a move into correction territory, the S&P 500 rebounded to score its best two-day percentage gain in over six years last week, as comments from Fed officials led some investors to believe the market turmoil and global growth concerns had diminished the possibility of a rate increase at the central bank's September meeting.
A September rate hike hasn't been ruled out, however. Fed Vice President Stanley Fischer told CNBC during the Fed's annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that the committee was "heading in the direction" of higher rates. Traders in futures markets that bet on rate increases then boosted September's odds.
"There is a narrative out there that Yellen's Fed is looking for a reason to delay the rate hike; I don't think that is necessarily the case," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial in Waltham, Mass.
After a stronger-than-expected revision to second quarter gross domestic product and solid durable goods figures, another run of strong data this week could bolster the case for a rate increase next month.