REFILE-What to Watch in the Week Ahead and on Monday, May 18

Fri May 15, 2015 5:29pm EDT
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(Refiles to remove "on Tuesday" from last item.)

A speech on Friday by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen headlines a week in which a handful of U.S. central bankers will dissect the latest string of weak economic data and offer views on when to raise rates. Speaking in Providence, RI, Yellen will address the economic outlook at 1300 ET (1700 GMT), when investors will be listening for any hint of a downgrade that could signal a later policy tightening. Minutes of the Fed's April meeting are published Wednesday, followed on Thursday by a New York Fed survey of primary dealers, both of which could shed light on what is driving decision-making at the central bank as it approaches a rate hike, probably later this year. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans visits Sweden and Germany on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, to talk about policy, while John Williams of the San Francisco Fed gives a talk Thursday. Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer will discuss challenges for the euro area on Thursday in Portugal.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, reports first-quarter results before markets open on Tuesday. Analysts expect the Dow component to beat profit and sales estimates for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. Dow component Home Depot Inc also reports first-quarter results on the same day.

Housing data takes center stage next week and could shed more clues on the speed of the economy's recovery from the first quarter's slump. On Tuesday, Commerce Department data is expected to show housing starts rose to a 1.02 million-unit pace in April from a 926,000-unit rate in March. On Thursday, the National Association of Realtors is likely to report that existing home sales increased to a 5.24 million-unit rate in April from a 5.17 million-unit pace in March. Labor Department data on Friday is expected to show very mild inflation pressures. The consumer price index is forecast nudging up 0.1 percent in April after rising 0.2 percent in March. The core CPI, which excludes energy and food, is expected to rise 0.2 percent after a similar gain in March.

Apparel retailer Gap Inc is expected to report a fall in first-quarter profit on Thursday, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Gap has reported a fall in first-quarter revenue and comparable sales, mainly due to falling sales at its Gap and Banana Republic brands, a stronger dollar, and supply disruptions at West Coast ports. To revive sales and offset the slump in demand for its other major clothing lines, Gap has been focusing on its biggest brand, Old Navy, which has clothes aimed at younger customers sold at a lower price point than its other brands. Investors will look for updates on efforts to revive sales at the Gap brand, second-quarter forecast, and color on performing categories.

Hewlett-Packard Co, the world's No. 2 PC maker, reports second-quarter results on Thursday. The company reported flat or lower revenue in all of its operating units in the first quarter.

Office supplies retailer Staples Inc is expected to report first-quarter profit and sales above the average analyst estimate on Wednesday, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. However, Staples is also expected to report a fall in sales from a year earlier, which would be the ninth straight decline in quarterly sales. The company had blamed the stronger dollar for the sales decrease in the prior quarter and investors will be looking for details of whether currency will continue to affect the company. Investors will also be looking ahead for comments on the Office Depot merger, particularly on acquisition expenses.

Retailer Target Corp reports first-quarter results before markets open on Wednesday. In March, the company said it would eliminate several thousand jobs, mainly from its headquarters in the United States and India, as it aims to cut $2 billion in costs over two years. On Thursday, electronics retailer Best Buy Co Inc reports first-quarter results before the bell. The company in March announced plans to close some stores and consolidate its operations in Canada, its second-largest market.

Off-price retailer TJX Cos Inc is expected to report first-quarter profit and sales largely in line with analyst expectations on Tuesday, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. Customer traffic to TJX's stores has risen in the past few quarters due to low prices, expanded brand offerings and trendy merchandise. The company has also benefited from the supply shortfall caused at most specialty retailers due to the West Coast port disruptions. Investors will look for the second-quarter forecast, an update to the full-year outlook, and comments on foreign exchange.   Continued...