Market Preview: All About Ben
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Thursday was ugly for equity investors but at least the wait is almost over.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is set to speak in Jackson Hole, Wyo. on Friday, and the expectations for him to telegraph the central bank's willingness to launch another huge asset purchase program have come way down of late.
The general consensus is Bernanke will use his time in the shadow of the Grand Tetons to echo a willingness to remain accommodative if economic conditions worsen, a refrain he's been sounding for weeks. That's not the nod to QE3 that folks seemed to be counting on two weeks ago but it would also be far from a shocking development.
"We expect Mr. Bernanke will sound dovish, once again expressing disappointment with the recovery, highlighting downside risks and making it clear that more stimulus is now actively being considered," wrote Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. "However, he is unlikely to send a definitive signal on what measures, if any, are likely as soon as the September 12-13 FOMC meeting, especially since a numer of important economic reports are imminent."
The biggest report is, of course, the August jobs report, whose prospects grew a bit dimmer after Thursday's elevated read on weekly initial claims. It make sense that Bernanke won't want to be too strident about anything, or shed much light on what the Fed is considering without this key piece of data being public.
O'Sullivan believes that, at minimum, the Fed will extend the timeframe for its near-zero interest rates pledge at the September meeting. He puts the chances of QE3 being announced at 50%.
The earnings calendar is empty on Friday ahead of the long Labor Day weekend but there are a few pieces of economic data to deal with including the Chicago purchasing managers index for August at 9:45 a.m. ET; the final University of Michigan consumer sentiment reading for August at 9:55 a.m. ET; and factory orders for July at 10 a.m. ET.
And finally, it was a fairly busy after-hours session on Thursday with Splunk(SPLK) was making a big splash in late trades after reporting a narrower than expected loss for its fiscal second-quarter results with revenue coming in 12% ahead of consensus.