This week promises to be a busy one, as the Federal Reserve meets and the government offers updates on gross domestic product, jobs and other data.
Things kick off with the December durable goods report, the first major reading on capital spending as businesses grappled with the approaching “fiscal cliff.” Analysts expect an overall 2 percent rise for the month, but are expecting that orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft fell by 1 percent as 2012 came to a close.
The S&P-Case Shiller home-price index is expected to show a 0.7 percent rise in home prices, continuing the recent streak of gains in the housing market.
The Commerce Department reports its first estimate of gross domestic product growth for the fourth quarter. Economists anticipate it to be meager growth, coming in at a 1.2 percent annual rate of increase, which would be the lowest since the first quarter of 2011. But personal consumption is forecast to have risen at a 2.1 percent rate, which points to a continued steady expansion of the economy once the temporary effects from inventory swings are excluded.
Wednesday afternoon, the Federal Reserve announces the results of its first policy meeting of the year. No major changes in policy are expected; the central bank is likely to affirm its intention to keep interest rates low at least until unemployment reaches 6.5 percent or inflation is set to exceed 2.5 percent. Until then, the Fed is likely to continue with its plans to buy $85 billion in securities each month to bolster the economy. One question to watch: Will Esther George, president of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, in her first go as a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, follow in the footsteps of her predecessor, Tom Hoenig, by dissenting in favor of more hawkish policy.
It’s jobs day again. In the first read on job creation in 2013, analysts are expecting modest improvement, forecasting a 160,000 gain in payroll jobs compared with 155,000 in December. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 7.8 percent. Recent readings on unemployment insurance claims have pointed to an improving labor market, so it will be interesting to see if this data agree.
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