Week Ahead: Bank Earnings and Inflation Data

Earnings reports, in particular from a handful of big banks, will draw investors’ attention next week.

Tech giant Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) earnings are also due, the report arriving in the immediate aftermath of the untimely death of co-founder and long-time chief executive Steve Jobs.

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Industry leaders Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), Citigroup (NYSE: C), Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) are all scheduled to report earnings.

Each bank has its own story, none more compelling perhaps than Bank of America, which is facing problems on a number of fronts, not least backlash from customers angry about the bank’s plan to apply a $5 monthly fee for using debit cards.

The rest, with the ever-dominant Goldman a likely exception, could be hampered by the difficult economy, which has dampened enthusiasm for the kind of big corporate deals for which these banks earn big fees.

Apple’s new chief executive, Tim Cook, if he participates in the company’s earnings conference call, could face questions on the direction he intends to take Apple as competition in the consumer gadgets sector gets ever more intense.

Earnings from bellwether companies IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) are also due.

Inflationary data comes out with the Producer Price Index released Tuesday and the Department of Labor's September Consumer Price Index out Wednesday. The Federal Reserve has said repeatedly that inflation is a potential concern in the near future, but is not currently a high priority. Gas and food prices have leveled off somewhat since rising sharply earlier this year primarily due to catastrophic events worldwide.

Data on September housing starts is due Wednesday. Many economists believe a broad and sustained economic recovery will begin with the housing sector. A glut of inventory and skittish buyers have hurt demand for months. Those dynamics aren’t likely to have changed in September. Existing home sales figures are due Thursday.

Also on tap for next week is a report from European fiscal leaders on how to deal with Greek’s overwhelming debt. Any news out of Europe regarding the Greek debt crisis has drawn an immediate response from Wall Street, with good news prompting rallies and bad news prompting sell-offs.