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Inflation On The Brain

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Looks as if there is going to be no end of fed rises and therefore pound loosing against the dollar... I wonder how many little timmys wont be getting Xbox 360's this crimbo whilst mum aand dad have to cope with 1.10p at the pump plus rediculous import costs....

Inflation on the brain

Concerns about higher prices and higher interest rates sent stocks tumbling last week. Now what?

October 8, 2005: 9:48 PM EDT

By Alexandra Twin, CNN/Money staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - After lurking in third place for the past month, biding its time, inflation finally made a big leap forward last week, overtaking energy prices and hurricanes to reclaim the title of Biggest Worry on Wall Street.

And it doesn't look to give up the crown anytime soon. But really, why should it?

Corporations are raising the alert about the impact of higher energy prices, key sentiment indicators are showing a jump in inflation components, and Fed officials are openly discussing pricing pressure in the economy.

After taking a somewhat casual reaction to this growing concern for month, Wall Streeters are finally taking a good, hard look at the issue -- and are panicking a bit.

Last week, the major gauges all lost between 2-1/2 and 3 percent.

"For individuals, inflation has been an issue for a while, but for the market, it really wasn't," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services. "Over the last few days, the psychology changed."

Even with energy prices off their highs, oil still remains above $61 a barrel, natural gas remains near all-time highs.

"Corporations are starting to say that we've held costs back as much as we can, we're going to have to pass it on," Mendelsohn added.

Are inflation worries overdone?

There is an argument to be made that the stock reaction last week should be taken with a grain of salt.

Fed officials have made it clear that they will keep raising short-term interest rates at a measured pace so as to counteract inflation.

Meanwhile, the impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita is not likely to have a long-term impact on the economy, if history is a good judge. The September jobs report, released late last week, showed a smaller than expected impact from the hurricanes.

Next week's reports will go a long way toward showing where the economy is post-hurricanes and what kind of inflation pressure is pushing through to the consumer.

Reports are due on import and export prices, retail sales, as well as consumer prices and the core consumer price index, a measure closely watched by the Federal Reserve. (For a preview of the week's big economic reports, click here.)

"So far, we haven't seen a major increase in core inflation, all we've seen is a sharp rise in energy prices," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at Spencer Clarke. "It seems logical that higher energy prices should start to feed through to higher inflation."

Next Tuesday also brings the minutes from the September Fed meeting, always a market event, as investors try to decipher what the central bankers were thinking at the last meeting, and how that might impact future rates. However, a lot more inflationary reports have come out since the meeting, so to an extent the minutes will be out of date.

Monday is likely to be a quiet day for stocks, with many Wall Street professionals out for the Columbus Day holiday. Stock markets will be open for trading, but Treasury bond markets will not. Banks are also closed for the national holiday.

Earnings start to pour

The week also brings the first batch of potentially market-moving third-quarter earnings reports.

Alcoa (Research) is the first Dow component up at bat, as is traditional. However, the company's earnings Monday are unlikely to be too surprising: last week Alcoa warned that results would fall short of estimates due to lower aluminum prices and higher energy costs.

General Electric (Research) and Apple Computer (Research) report results later in the week. (For a look at next week's key earnings, click here.)

Currently, earnings are expected to grow 17.8 percent in the third quarter, according to a consensus of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call.

That's an improvement from the first two quarters of the year and the strength of the earnings should help reassure wary investors.

However, like Alcoa, a number of corporations have been more forthcoming lately about how sustained higher energy prices are hurting their profits. FedEx and Clorox both said earlier in the week that they will need to raise some prices to counteract the impact of rising energy costs.

It's a theme that is likely to come up often throughout the third-quarter earnings reporting period.

Key economic news

The August trade balance, due Thursday, likely widened to 59.0 billion in the month, according to a consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com. The trade gap stood at $57.9 billion in July.

September retail sales, due Friday, are expected to have risen 0.2 percent after falling 2.1 percent in August. Sales excluding the volatile auto component are expected to have risen 0.6 percent after rising 1 percent in August.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), due Friday, is expected to have risen 0.9 percent in September after rising 0.5 percent in August. The so-called "core" CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, is expected to have risen 0.2 percent, according to economists' forecasts, versus a rise of 0.1 percent in August.

Also Friday, the September read on industrial production is due. Production is expected to have fallen 0.5 percent after rising 0.1 percent in August. Capacity utilization is expected to have fallen to 79.3 percent from 79.8 percent in August.

The University of Michigan's first read on consumer sentiment in October is also due Friday. The index is expected to rise to 84.0 in the month from 76.9 in September.

August business inventories, due Friday, are expected to have risen 0.1 percent, according to economists' forecasts, after falling 0.5 percent in July.

Cnn article

Edited by mbga9pgf

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