Day Ahead: 3 Things to Watch for July 31

imageStock MarketsJul 30, 2020 04:58PM ET

(C) Reuters.

By Liz Moyer

Investing.com — Stocks were mixed on Thursday as a rally in big tech could not overcome bleak economic data and fears that the recovery had stalled because of rising coronavirus cases across the country.

While the tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite ended up, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed in the red, but paring steeper losses from earlier in the morning, when the government said second-quarter GDP plummeted the most in history.

Big tech reported earnings on Thursday after the bell that topped consensus estimates and will likely extend the rally in the sector. Merck, a pharmaceutical giant among those hunting for a Covid vaccine, reports Friday morning, along with the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment reading.

Here are three things that could affect markets tomorrow.

1. FANG earnings reports could drive markets

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL), and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) have driven markets higher in recent weeks, and their better-than-expected quarterly reports will likely give that trend further momentum.

Tech stocks were up modestly on Thursday in anticipation of the reports, helping the Nasdaq to close above the flat line. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 fell as investors took in government data showing a record plunge in economic output in the second quarter.

Big tech has notched gains despite weakness in most other S&P sectors. Apple, Amazon, Google’s Alphabet, and Facebook combined make up $5 trillion in market value. They rank among the five largest stocks in the S&P.

2. Big pharma earnings also on tap

Merck & Company Inc (NYSE:MRK)reports earnings Friday morning before the opening bell. Analysts polled by Investing.com expect a 19% drop in earnings per share to $1.04 on revenue of $10.4 billion.

Covid-related lockdowns may have prevented people from starting cancer treatment this spring, which would have cut into the pharmaceutical giant’s cancer drug sales. In April, Merck cut its 2020 outlook on EPS to a range of $5.17 to $5.37 and revenue in a range of $46 billion to $48 billion.

Merck is one of the companies working on a Covid vaccine, and executives may give an update on their progress. As Briefing.com noted, Merck trades at a forward multiple of 13, which is a premium to Novartis AG ADR (NYSE:NVS) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE:BMY) but a discount to Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE)and AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN)

3. Possibility of more dismal data on Friday

After Thursday’s dismal data on joblessness and economic output, Friday will feature reports on personal income and consumer sentiment. The personal income number for June is due out at 8:30 AM ET (1230 GMT). The consensus is looking for a decline of 0.9%, after a drop of 4.2% the prior month. Personal spending, also due out at 8:30 AM ET (1230 GMT) is seen rising 5.9% compared to 8.2% the prior month.

At 10:00 AM ET (1400 GMT) the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment data will be released. The outlook is for a reading of 73, down from 73.2 the prior month. The reversal of business reopenings across the country as new Covid cases spike is weighing on consumers’ minds. On Thursday, the government reported an unprecedented 32.9% annualized plunge in gross domestic product in the second quarter and new jobless claims of 1.43 million.

Lawmakers still can’t get together to pass another stimulus package, with a key sticking point being the $600 weekly pandemic unemployment benefit. A GOP proposal to slash that to $200 a week was rejected on Thursday. The benefit expires on Friday and some argue without its renewal, the economy will spiral into greater turmoil.

Day Ahead: 3 Things to Watch for July 31

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