TORONTO - Traders are looking to see if some definitive word on whether Greece gets a crucial bailout early this week can supply a spark to a stock market rally that seemed to have fizzled over the last two weeks.
The Toronto market ended last week slightly higher. And the previous week, the main TSX had dropped almost 1.5 per cent, snapping a seven-session winning streak that had taken the market up over five per cent from the beginning of the year.
But the TSX has had an impressive runup with the main index up about 11 per cent since the lows of early October and still ahead about four per cent from the start of the year.
The top item on the agenda this week is a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday, where it is expected they will give the green light for the €130 billion bailout.
"It’s going to finally come to a head," said Colin Cieszynski, market strategist for CMC Markets Canada.
"And the last indication we saw was that it looks like they’re coming on a deal."
Markets were under a cloud for much of last week and tensions between Greece and the rest of the eurozone hit new highs as politicians in Athens and other European capitals blamed each other for the problems related to the bailout.
But at the end of the week, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the leaders of Germany, Italy and Greece were "optimistic" the rescue package can be cleared this week.
The French prime minister also warned against letting Greece default.
Despite the ongoing drama of Europe's debt crisis, investors have been encouraged by the fact that China seems to be pulling off the difficult task of slowing the economy in order to tame higher than wanted inflation.
Also bolstering investor sentiment has been a string of stronger than expected American economic data, including two straight months of U.S. job gains in excess of 200,000 and indications of a strengthening manufacturing sector.
Even the U.S. housing sector, the collapse of which triggered the severe economic downturn of 2008, is picking up.
"What’s particularly encouraging to me as well is the housing data,"added Cieszynski.
"At least now we’re getting the sense that the housing market seems to be stabilizing, it’s not in freefall, it’s been bouncing along a low level for several years now and we’re starting to see some pickup."
Existing home sales data comes out Wednesday.
Bank of Montreal economists believe the data will show sales up 0.7 per cent during January to an annual rate of 4.64 million, which would be a 20-month high.
New home sales are released on Friday and BMo expects they rose 3.3 per cent to an annual rate of 317,000, which would be a 13-month high.
"In consequence, residential investment looks to contribute to real GDP growth in 2012 for the first time in seven years."
In Canada, the main report of the week is December retail sales. The consensus of economists called for a drop if 0.2 per cent, but up 0.1 per cent excluding auto sales. The result would coincide with consumer confidence that hit a two and a half year low in December.
Meanwhile, it's another heavy earnings week for Corporate Canada with earnings coming in from Sheritt International (TSX:S), Inmet Mining (TSX:IMN) and Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) on Wednesday.
On the following day, Centerra Gold (TSX:CG) and Iamgold (TSX:IMG) report on Thursday.
Results from the gold miners could be disappointing if results last week from Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) are any indication. The world’s largest gold producer missed expectations on earnings and revenue on higher production costs.
"What I think it showed was that the metal will do better than the miners are and will continue to do so," said John Stephenson, portfolio manager at First Asset Funds Inc.
"These guys can’t seem to get control over their business from one quarter to the next. Costs, or grades or geopolitical risk, the list is endless and they all seem to disappoint."
Other marquee names reporting this week include grocer Loblaw Cos. (TSX:L) and Tim Horton's (TSX:THI), both on Thursday.