There's a hurricane bearing down on Wall Street. Another wave is heading that way too.
Next week will bring a flurry of new reports to shed light on the state of the economy and the success, or failure, of the government's attempts to spur job growth. Markets reacted positively to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's Friday speech on fiscal and monetary policy, the subject of anticipation and debate throughout the preceding week.
Beginning Monday, all eyes will be on numbers, The Street suggests. Monday will bring a report on consumer spending and income in the month of July, Tuesday the release of the consumer confidence index for August. And on Wednesday, Automatic Data Processing will post numbers for job growth in August in the private sector, in advance of the latest unemployment numbers, to be released at the end of the week.
That is, if the markets open. The New York Stock Exchange is scheduled to open Monday, but a final decision could come over the weekend, depending on the ferocity of Hurricane Irene.
Meanwhile, Bernanke's speech has kicked the issues of stimulus and economic revival back into the laps of elected officials, The New York Times editorialized Saturday. "The weak economy cannot tolerate any more political antics, policy mistakes or inaction," The Times declared.
The best, proactive way to revive the housing market is to help bankrupt and delinquent borrowers rework their mortgages through principal reductions. It is also important to ease refinancing rules so underwater borrowers who are current in their payments can trade in their high-rate mortgages for lower-rate loans. The Obama administration is considering new refinancing rules, but mortgage investors are sure to resist.
Not that everyone is letting Bernanke off the hook entirely. An economist at the Bank for International Settlements, Stephen G. Cecchetti, used the same Jackson Hole, Wy., forum at which Bernanke spoke Friday to side with one of the Fed's critics on interest rates, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Fed is mistaken to keep interest rates low in its ongoing attempts to ease credit and consumer lending, Cecchetti said. Among those listening to that critique: Bernanke himself.