When the Federal Open Market Committee meets Tuesday, it is expected to set the stage for future interest rate cuts, a move that would give a much-needed boost to the struggling stock market.
Wall Street analysts expect the Federal Reserve to change its so-called bias to a neutral stance, which would be a symbol that it sees the risks between inflation and growth in balance.
More importantly for investors, the move would signal that the Fed may push through rate cuts next year.
Also next week, handheld device maker Palm will announce quarterly earnings. The news is expected to be a bright spot in a market marred by earnings warnings from PC-related companies.
For its parent company, 3Com, which will also announce earnings next week, prospects are less bright. Analysts will be listening carefully for guidance on when the company will return to profitability.
Investors will be looking for updates on how 3Com's restructuring efforts have been going. In March, the company announced plans to exit slow-growing portions of its business and focus instead on emerging technologies, such as wireless networking, Internet telephony, and high-speed Internet access through cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) modems.
Other events scheduled this week:
Tuesday, Dec. 19
- The Line56 Live New York B2B Conference will take place at the Hilton New York, Dec. 19-21. Speakers will include Harvey Seegers, CEO of General Electric's Global eXchange Services, and Ariba CEO Keith Krach.
Monday, Dec. 18
- Micron Technology makes semiconductor memory products and personal computer systems. Per-share consensus estimate: 66 cents.
- Solectron is a contract manufacturer for electronics. Per-share consensus estimate: 27 cents.
- Jabil is a contract manufacturer that makes electronic circuit boards and systems. Per-share consensus estimate: 26 cents.
- Federal Express is a global shipping company. Per-share consensus estimate: 64 cents.
makes the leading brand of handheld computers, as well as the Palm operating system. Per-share consensus estimate: 4 cents.
- 3Com makes network management software. Per-share consensus estimate: loss of 18 cents.
Tuesday, Dec. 19
- Trade Balance, or the value of U.S. imports subtracted from exports, is expected to decrease to a deficit of $33.2 billion in November from a deficit of $34.2 billion in October as reported monthly by the Commerce Department.
- Housing Starts represents the total number of new homes being built. This number is expected to jump to 1.55 million for November from 1.532 million in October.
- Treasury Budget is a monthly account of the surplus or deficit of the U.S. government. The deficit is expected to decrease in November to $23.7 billion from a deficit of $27 billion in October.
- Gross Domestic Product numbers will be revised and released for the third quarter. GDP represents the nation's total output of goods and services.
- Initial Claims refers to the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits each week as reported by the Labor Department. Claims will be reported for the week of Dec. 16.