Key economic events for the week of Dec. 5

December 4, 2011

This quiet week for economic data should offer several new pieces of information about the economic situation, including a first indication of how retail sales performed at the onset of the holiday season.

Monday

The Institute for Supply Management releases its index of activity at service businesses. Forecasters expect that it, like its manufacturing counterpart last week, will show an acceleration of business activity in November. The nonmanufacturing index is expected to rise to 53.8, from 52.9.

Also coming out will be data on factory orders in October. Analysts expect orders to have fallen 0.3 percent. That would reverse a gain by the same amount recorded in September.

Wednesday

New data on consumer credit is projected to show that the volume of credit card and other non-mortgage loans Americans had outstanding last month rose by $7 billion. A rise would be consistent with earlier data suggesting that Americans are spending more despite the squeeze on incomes from a weak job market.

Thursday

The International Council of Shopping Centers releases its data on same-store sales at major retail chains for November. In contrast to the flurry of reports after the Thanksgiving “Black Friday” weekend, this will be the first report to capture the entire month’s sales.

Also Thursday, the Federal Reserve releases its third-quarter “flow of funds” data, a rich data set that captures the composition and value of the assets and debts of U.S. households and corporations. Among other things, it should give a sense of how American households’ balance sheets held up during a volatile July through September period.

Friday

International trade data for October should offer an early read on a key component of gross domestic product at the start of the fourth quarter. Analysts are expecting a widening of the trade deficit, to $44 billion from $43.1 billion in September. An increase of that magnitude would amount to a drag on economic growth if it persists through November and December.

—Neil Irwin

Neil’s
Must Reads

Two interesting pieces from top-rate economists at Harvard, both at Project Syndicate. Martin Feldstein explains why the United States is in a fundamentally different spot from Europe. And Kenneth Rogoff argues that free-market capitalism will prove resilient to its current challenges.

Find links at washingtonpost.com/
mustreads
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