By Kate Gibson
With no quick fix in sight to the sovereign debt issues plaguing Europe and its common currency, the U.S. stock market's volatile ride is unlikely to abate in the days ahead.
"Europe is important. They import a lot, and they export a lot, so they have a lot of influence over what's going on around the world," said Owen Fitzpatrick, head of U.S. equity group at Deutsche Bank.
Underlining the importance of Europe's troubles, Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, said Europe's economy has been facing its biggest crisis since World War II or possibly World War I, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported on its Website Saturday.
On Friday, the major U.S. stock indexes fell sharply for a second consecutive session, yet still managed to halt a weekly losing streak before it hit a third week, as investors tracked the euro's decline on worries about Europe's debt crisis, with Wall Street detouring around reports illustrating slow but steady improvement in the U.S. economy.
Making a triple-digit move for an 11th session out of the last 14, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) fell 162.79 points, or 1.5%, to finish at 10,620.16, leaving it up 2.3% for the week after a two-week slide.
"It's the global growth story and concerns this is going to dampen the global recovery and increase credit risk. There's a big question mark around how much damage is this going to do to an economy that is just starting to chug along," said Fitzpatrick.
And, while the current earnings season is mostly over, the coming days will bring results from a collection of big names, including results slated for Tuesday from three Dow components -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Home Depot Inc. (HD) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) .
Twenty-three S&P 500 companies are expected to report earnings in the days ahead, including home-improvement retailer Lowe's Companies Inc. (LOW) on Monday, and tax preparation software firm Intuit Inc. (INTU) on Thursday.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX) on Friday declined 21.76 points, or 1.9%, to 1,135.68, up 2.2% from the week-ago close.
Results are also on tap from the technology sector, including Agilent Technologies Inc. (A) on Monday and Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) the next day. Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) reports on Thursday, as does tax preparation software firm Intuit Inc. (INTU).
Thursday also brings results from video game publisher Gamestop Corp. (GME), shares of which were hit at the end of the last week after data pointed to a sharp April drop in sales of video games. .
The coming week also features results from retailers, including Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) on Tuesday and office-supplies retailer Staples Inc. (SPLS) on Thursday.
Muted outlooks from retailers that reported in the past week left some questioning recent signs of strength in consumer spending, even as J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) reported robust gains in sales and profits, a theme echoed by the likes of Macy's Inc. (M) and Kohl's Corp. (KSS).
Blended share-weighted earnings for the S&P 500 for the first quarter stood at $183.3 as of Friday, above the prior week's $182.4 billion, according to research compiled by Thomson Reuters.
The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) on Friday shed 47.51 points, or 2%, to 2,346.85, leaving it 3.6% higher from last Friday's finish.
Week of contrasts
"We just came off a very steep decline in the market associated with credit, and all the news came on the weekend. So we're back to that pattern of lightening up on stocks before the weekend," said Fitzpatrick of Friday's fall.
The wild swings illustrate the level of uncertainty in the market, and the skepticism or optimism that comes into play as various bank officials or heads of state comment on the rescue package.
"Last week, the stock market was a study in contrast. Through Wednesday stocks were higher by 5.5% as investors reacted to the European Union and International Monetary Fund's announcement that they had developed and were implementing a plan to support the euro zone countries that were experiencing deficit issues," wrote Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners.
"However on Thursday short-term concerns began creeping back into the market over how easily these funds could be disbursed to the needy countries and whether those countries could successfully execute austerity measures," Pavlik noted.
Wall Street's recent gyrations are akin to those seen in the early stages of the U.S. recovery, before "people got comfortable that the credit crisis was over," said Fitzpatrick.
"The good news is we've gone through this in the recent past, so we have a game plan," said Fitzpatrick, who believes what the European Union has outlined in its near $1 trillion rescue package really should help, given it's large enough to some $700 billion in debt off the balance sheets of large European banks.
Companies with exposure to the currency, translated back into a dollar that's much stronger, are likely bring revisions related to the rise in the dollar related to the euro.
"We will see profit warnings coming out from companies around the globe. Analysts are making adjustments, and we will see profit warnings coming out from companies around the globe," said Fitzpatrick.
"I don't think anyone had the euro's lows in the models," he added of the euro's slide against the U.S. dollar, which on Friday had it sliding to its lowest level seen since October 2008.
In addition to Europe, Wall Street will be tracking financial reform legislation, including a measure approved by the Senate to limit fees on debit-card transactions, which involves processing transactions but not taking on risk.
"That's why they left credit cards off the table. They don't want a situation where people are pulling back on credit, they want to encourage people to spend money," said Fitzpatrick. .
The economic docket in the days ahead includes producer price data for April and reports on the housing market, along with a measure of inflation.