Economic events for the week of May 23

May 22, 2011

A steady stream of economic data this week should offer the latest readings on housing, capital expenditures and incomes.

Tuesday, May 24

Economists are forecasting that data on new home sales were unchanged in April, at a weak 300,000 annual new homes, meaning the seemingly never-ending woes of the housing sector are continuing. With prices still drifting downward in most of the country and oversupply still a problem, housing construction does not yet appear poised to make a meaningful contribution to overall economic growth.

Wednesday, May 25

The Commerce Department plans to report on April durable goods orders, which are expected to have declined 2.5 percent following a comparable rise in March.

The data series can be a useful proxy for business investment, particularly if one looks at a subcategory, non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft. Those orders are forecast to have declined 2 percent in April, following a steeper 3.7 percent rise in March. Any subdued readings would offer little hope that business spending is taking off.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s home price index for March is expected to show further evidence of the aforementioned downward drift. Analysts expect an 0.5 percent decline in nationwide home prices to be reported.

Thursday, May 26

The weekly jobless claims number has been flashing warning signals about the job market in recent weeks, exceeding 400,000 for six straight weeks. It declined last week to 409,000, but if it does not drop below 400,000 soon, and stay there, it would raise doubts about the strength of the job market’s recovery.

The Commerce Department is slated to revise its estimate of first-quarter growth in gross domestic product. Look for a slight improvement on the disappointing 1.8 percent annual rate of growth originally reported; forecasters expect the revised number to be 2.2 percent.

Friday, May 27

Personal income is forecast to have risen 0.4 percent in April, and spending to have risen 0.5 percent, in Commerce Department data that should show that steady growth continued last month.

Neil’s Must Reads

Jim Tankersley and Michael Hirsh have a smart piece in the National Journal on how the economics profession is trying — and so far failing — to learn lessons from the recent crisis that would offer useful insights for Washington policymakers. Find links at washingtonpost.com/mustreads

Neil Irwin

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