Economic news for week of Jan. 2, 2012

The year begins with a week packed with economic news.

Tuesday

The Institute for Supply Management releases its index of activity in the nation’s factories in December. Analysts are expecting good news: They forecast that the index will rise to 53.4, from 52.7 in November, signaling more robust growth in manufacturing output.

The Federal Reserve releases minutes of its Dec. 13 policy meeting, where the central bank’s policy committee decided to affirm its low-interest-rate policies but make no changes. The minutes could prove more newsworthy than the meeting. The Federal Open Market Committee has been discussing changes to how it communicates about its goals and expectations, and the minutes could reveal, or at least hint at, any imminent changes. One strong possibility would be for the Fed to start announcing what its members expect the future course of interest rates to be.

Wednesday

Factory orders are expected to have risen 2 percent in November, following a dip in October.

Sales of cars and light trucks, meanwhile, are expected to have roughly held steady in December. Analysts expect that light vehicles were sold at a 13.5 million annual rate last month, little changed from 13.6 million in November.

Thursday

The ISM is back, with its index of activity in the service sector. The group’s non-manufacturing index is expected to have risen, with a boost to 53 in December projected, from 52 in November.

The International Council of Shopping Centers releases its report on December sales at major retail chains.

Friday

The December jobs report will show whether the labor market continued to improve last month. Analysts think it did: They forecast 150,000 net new jobs were created, up from 120,000 added in November. That would be consistent with a decline in new claims for jobless benefits in the month. The unemployment rate, however, is forecast to edge up to 8.7 percent from 8.6 percent, partly reversing a steep November decline.

Neil Irwin

Neil’s
Must Reads

The Council on Foreign Relations asked five thoughtful economists about what over-arching trends will affect the economy in 2012. Read their answers at the council’s Web site. And what is money, really, and is the Fed really printing more of it? Jon Hilsenrath addresses this much-misunderstood question on the Wall Street Journal’s economics blog.

Find links at washingtonpost.com/
mustreads.

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