Week Ahead: FOMC Meeting, Apple Earnings and GDP

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The highlight of next week’s economic calendar will be the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting, at which policy makers are highly unlikely to raise interest rates but may give some indication when they will.

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The first reading of third-quarter GDP is also out and third-quarter earnings season continues in earnest, led by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

The Fed meets Tuesday and Wednesday and will release a policy statement at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The chances that the Federal Open Markets Committee will pull the trigger on a rate hike are slim to none, but the statement is sure to set off speculation on when liftoff might occur.

The Fed meets one more time in 2015 in mid-December. Anyone who still thinks the Fed will raise rates this year believes it will happen after the December meeting if for no other reason than Fed Chair Janet Yellen has a press conference scheduled for after that meeting, which will give her an opportunity to further explain the move. There is no press conference scheduled for next week.

In any event, the Fed will have time next week to absorb the lousy September jobs report and other mixed data since last meeting in September. The FOMC was widely expected to raise rates at that meeting but voted to delay, citing reports of economic weakness overseas that roiled U.S. markets.

There will be a lot of buildup to Wednesday’s statement but the Fed almost certainly won’t be taking action.

The third-quarter GDP figure, due out Thursday, is expected to decline to 1.4% from 3.9% in the second quarter due to a number of factors, including weaker construction spending. The number is out too late for the Fed to consider it during this week’s meeting but it will certainly be a factor during the central bank’s December meeting.

Bellwether companies reporting earnings next week include: Apple, UPS (NYSE:UPS) and Pfizer (NYSR:PFE) on Tuesday; Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) and LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) on Thursday; and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) on Friday.

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