All eyes will turn to the Federal Reserve next week as it meets to formulate economic policy for the next several months.
Its unlikely the central bankers will announce any dramatic shifts to current policy after the Federal Open Market Committee meets on Tuesday. For instance, its extremely doubtful the Fed will tinker with interest rates or propose a new round of quantitative easing.
But the bankers could signal where they believe the U.S. economy is headed and whether they are prepared to take additional action if the recovery continues to stall.
As markets have swooned in recent week, there has been growing criticism of fiscal policy makers both in the U.S. and in Europe. Congressional Republicans and Democrats bickered for weeks as a potentially devastating default loomed over the U.S. government. In Europe, the debt crisis has spread to the much larger economies of Italy and Spain and European leaders seem helpless to control the contagion.
The Fed may look to fill that void by making a strong statement on its role in fostering an economic recovery.
Earnings slow next week but a pattern established earlier this year is likely to continue. Companies are overwhelmingly reporting solid profits and beating analysts estimates despite the deluge of poor economic news in recent months.
Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN) is due Monday; Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) on Tuesday; Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), Macys (NYSE:M) and News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWSA) on Wednesday; Nordstrom(NYSE:JWN), Kohls (NYSE:KSS) and J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) on Thursday.
On the economic data front, July retail sales are due on Thursday and those results are important because consumer spending has trended lower in recent weeks. That bodes poorly for the overall economy because consumer spending makes up 70% of the economy.
An unusually heavy initial public offering calendar is scheduled for next week, with 12 companies set to debut their shares, according to Renaissance Capital, an IPO research firm in Greenwich, Conn. That could change, however, if market conditions remain as turbulent as this week.