Third-quarter earnings season kicks into high gear this week as a dozen Dow components and 80 S&P 500 firms report, including General Electric, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Citigroup, McDonald's and Coca-Cola.
The second presidential debate tomorrow night will interest traders because Wall Street in general and several specific sectors, such as health care and defense, could be dramatically affected by the outcome in November.
So far, third-quarter earnings look like they could be down almost 3 percent as companies blame a slowdown in the global economy for weaker sales.
Last week, stocks had their worst performance since early June as the Dow dropped 2.5 percent to 13,328 and the S&P 500 was off 2.2 percent to 1,428.
Today's retail sales numbers should give a preview of the holiday shopping season and will be closely watched after a report on Friday showed a jump in consumer sentiment to its highest level since 2007.
Concerns about the fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and federal budget cuts in January as well as the uncertain election outcome and the European debt crisis have all tempered business and individual spending.
Another global concern is the economic slowdown in China, so data being released this week will be closely watched, starting with today's Chinese inflation numbers, and then on Thursday, China's reports on industrial production, retail sales and GDP.
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