NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. investors came to the Thanksgiving holiday table on Thursday mostly thankful that the week was a short one, or losses could have been larger.
As another round of news and bond auctions from Europe begins next week, traders will watch closely sovereign bond yields that have kept markets on edge.
Yields rose in almost every euro-zone country this week, and Germany failed to find enough bids for a 10-year auction. The S&P 500 reacted by posting a second straight week of declines and its worst week in two months.
Politicians are scrambling to find a way out of a two-year-old sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone and a visit to Washington from top European Union officials, as well as a meeting of euro-zone finance ministers, will provide the market with headlines and possibly add to uncertainty.
With the specter of rising yields, France, Britain, Italy, Belgium and Spain are holding debt sales next week. The direction of bond yields will determine the direction of equity markets.
“Politicians are trying to buy themselves time so austerity measures kick in and impact budgets and deficits and markets become more forgiving and rates come down,” said Wasif Latif, vice president of equity investments at the San Antonio, Texas-based USAA Investment Management, which manages about $45 billion.
“The credit market and fixed income are a little bit more in the eye of storm; that’s where the issue is rising, so equities are more reactionary,” he said. “You may continue to see more of the same.”
Investors have worried about rising borrowing costs in many euro-zone nations, but Italy, the third-largest euro zone economy, has grabbed most of the focus. On Friday Rome paid a record 6.5 percent to borrow for six months and almost 8 percent to issue two-year zero coupon bonds.
Many market participants have said that the sharply differentiated risk-on and -off trades that the euro zone crisis has generated has seen equities being sold as an asset class, with little or no difference between strong and week balance sheets and earnings reports. But a wedge has opened at least from a global perspective, as data show stocks of companies with more exposure to Europe are underperforming.
President Barack Obama will meet on Monday with European Council President Herman van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and Europe’s response to the two-year sovereign debt crisis is expected to top the agenda.
“The only thing that will come out of that is speculation,” said Todd Salamone, vice president of research at Schaeffer’s Investment Research in Cincinnati, referring to the meeting in Washington.
“It will come down to the U.S. trying to convince European leaders to get something in place to solve this crisis.”
Not many hopes are set either on Tuesday’s meeting where euro-zone finance ministers are expected to agree on how to further strengthen the region’s bailout fund.
On Thursday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi presents the bank’s annual report to the European parliament.
As the latest reminder from markets to politicians that they are running out of time, Belgium’s credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s.
Some of the most important U.S. economic monthly data will be released next week, but will it be enough to unlink the stock market’s behavior and European yields.
New home sales and the S&P/Case-Shiller home prices index will start the week showing if the housing market continues on life support. Data on confidence among consumers, who flooded U.S. stores on Friday as the holiday shopping season started, will be released on Tuesday.
The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing report is due, with investors not only looking at the U.S. number on Wednesday but also factory readings from Europe and China on Thursday.
By midweek labor data takes over with the private sector employment report from ADP and Challenger’s job cuts report, followed Thursday by the weekly jobless claims numbers and topped by Friday’s monthly non-farm payrolls report.
“It would be a little bit refreshing to focus on the U.S. data for a change,” said Brian Lazorishak, senior quantitative analyst and portfolio manager at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He said if European headlines allow it, the focus will be in the labor market where “most people are looking for modest improvement.”
Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; additional reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Kenneth Barry