U.S. stocks traded mostly flat Monday morning as the second-quarter earnings season winds down and investors weigh news that Japan’s economy contracted in Q2. China’s surprise currency devaluation last week shocked global markets, but this week investors will shift attention to U.S. housing and inflation data and Wednesday’s release by the U.S. Federal Reserve of the minutes from its July 28-29 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) lost 19.92 points, or 0.11 percent, to hit 17,457.48. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (INDEXSP:.INX) edged down a slight 1.62 points, or 0.08 percent, to 2,089.92. And the Nasdaq composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) was up 2.44 points, or 0.05 percent, to 5,050.68.
On Monday, Japan announced that its economy contracted by 1.6 percent in the three months ended June compared with the same period last year, news that helped push oil prices down as concerns heighten that Asia’s largest economies (including Indonesia and Malaysia) are slowing.
U.S. crude, or West Texas Intermediate, for September delivery was trading 0.54 percent lower at $41.85 a barrel Monday morning, close to its lowest level in more than six years. Brent futures for October rebounded by a slight 0.22 percent, to $49.30, after a fire broke out at Kuwait’s massive Al Shuaiba oil refinery.
Shifting to the U.S., traders are digesting the latest housing market index released Monday morning from the National Association of Homebuilders, which came in as expected. The monthly measure of homebuilders' views on the single-family housing market increased to 61 in August, from 60 in the previous month.
"The NAHB housing market index is near prerecession levels, but housing starts remain depressed relative to historical standards, suggesting that there is still room for growth in the housing sector,” said Nomura in a research note ahead of the release of the data.
On a gloomier note, industrial data released by the New York Fed came in much lower than expected. Regional manufacturing activity fell 19 points, to -14.9, the lowest level since 2009. New orders and shipment from New York manufacturers also tumbled.
Monthly data on U.S. housing construction will be released Tuesday. Economists expect housing starts to have edged up 1 percent in July compared to the same month last year.
U.S. inflation data will come out Wednesday, showing the effect of low-priced oil on consumer prices. Economists expect prices to rise by a slight 0.2 percent in July compared with the same month last year. Excluding energy costs, inflation is expected at 1.8 percent. The U.S. Federal Reserve has a 2 percent annual target for inflation, which it estimates is required to stave off a deflation risk.
Also on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will release the minutes from the July 28-29 FOMC meeting. Fed chief Janet Yellen has been saying that conditions in the U.S. economy and the labor market are strong enough to begin raising rates for the first time since 2006.