Wall St focus on the Fed this week

The policymakers of the US Federal Reserve will meet over two days this week and investors are positioning themselves just in case the central bank further details its plan to rein in its bond buying.

And that's exactly what the International Monetary Fund is asking Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to do.

In its annual review of the US economy, released on Friday, the IMF said "there are significant challenges involved in unwinding accommodation, including risks of market reactions leading to excessive interest rate volatility that could have adverse global implications."

The IMF said "effective communication on the exit strategy and a careful calibration of its timing will be critical for reducing these risks."

On Friday, at least, US investors pushed stocks ever so softly higher in late trading on bets that the Fed will refrain from any changes to its easy-money stance for now.

On the weekend, President Barack Obama stepped into the debate over who will succeed Bernanke when his term expires at the end of January 2014. Obama said he's narrowed the list of candidates and a decision could be expected in a few months.

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.02 per cent higher to close at 15,558.83, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 0.08 per and the Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.22 per cent.

For the week, the S&P 500 ended marginally lower, finishing at 1,691.65 on Friday, just shy of the close of 1,692.09 from a week earlier. The Dow eked out a gain of 0.1 per cent over the past five days.

Of course the Fed isn't all that's on this week's agenda. More than 100 companies will be reporting results in the days ahead including AIG, Yelp, Time Warner, CBS, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Kellog and Coach.

Not to be outdone, some of Europe's top companies will be posting results too: Barclays, Deutsche Bank, UBS, BNP Paribas, Peugeot and Volkswagen.

When it reports on Tuesday, Barclays also is expected to announce plans to raise billions of pounds of capital, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Global banks are continuing to shore up their books to meet new capital requirements.

Investors also will be watching for news of more payments to settle claims by US regulators that banks improperly sold mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Last week, UBS agreed to pay US$885 million to wipe its slate clean.

And if there wasn't enough on radar screens, there are some big US economic numbers scheduled to be released, none more so than July's government payrolls at the end of the week.

Ahead of the payrolls report will be second-quarter US GDP, consumer confidence, ISM manufacturing, personal income and spending.

Back in Europe, policymakers in the UK at the Bank of England and the European Central Bank will be monitored for greater clarity on their stimulus efforts-though neither central bank is expected to adjust policy this week.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index declined 0.3 per cent last week as disappointing earnings fuelled concern about the region's economic recovery.

Over the weekend, a report from China's National Bureau of Statistics showed that growth in Chinese industrial companies' profits eased in June. Net income rose 6.3 per cent from a year earlier to 502.4 billion yuan (US$82 billion), down from a 15.5 per cent pace in May. Profit from main business operations slid 2.3 per cent last month after rising 8.8 per cent in May.

Separately, China's National Audit Office will conduct an audit of all government debt at the request of the nation's State Council or cabinet, it said in a statement on Sunday, according to Reuters, underlining concern over rising debt levels in the world's second biggest economy.

- BusinessDesk

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