Economic data could put stocks back on higher path

Sat Mar 26, 2016 1:11am EDT
 
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By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The March U.S. employment report and other key economic numbers next week could help U.S. stocks resume their recent winning path as long as that data hits the sweet spot: Not strong enough to add to worries about further interest rate hikes, yet not weak enough to cause concern about a recession.

Data on Friday, a market holiday, showed the U.S. economic growth slowdown in the fourth quarter was not as sharp as previously estimated.

Reports on the housing market could also draw investors' attention given recent sharp gains in homebuilder stocks.

Major indexes remain well above their 2016 lows, thanks to evidence of a reviving U.S. economy and a sharp rebound in oil prices, even as stocks broke a five-week streak of gains on Thursday, their last trading day before a long holiday weekend.

While the volatility that marked the start of the year has diminished and many strategists have adopted a cautiously optimistic outlook, the market seems to have paused.

The Friday U.S. data showed that even as gross domestic product increased at a 1.4 percent annual rate instead of the previously reported 1.0 percent pace, corporate profits from current production fell $159.6 billion in the fourth quarter.

A catalyst for stocks could come from a rebound in corporate earnings.

"What we've seen over the past couple of weeks is really just a return to normal," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial in Waltham, Massachusetts.   Continued...

 
A Wall Street sign is seen in Lower Manhattan in New York, January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar