Key economic events for the week of March 18

The Federal Reserve meets to deliberate on monetary policy this week, after which it is scheduled to announce its thinking on how the American economy is doing and where Fed policy is headed.

At its last meeting in January, the Fed elected to continue its policy of keeping the interest rate unchanged, near zero. The Fed noted an economic “pause” in the fourth quarter but expressed confidence that it was only temporary.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke plans to follow the meetings with his first quarterly news conference of 2013, at which he is likely to face questions on the effect of the federal budget cuts known as the sequester.

Monday

The week kicks off with the first of several housing indicators: At 10 a.m., the National Association of Home Builders releases its March index gauging builder confidence. It is projected to rise to 47 from 46. Any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

Tuesday

Data on housing starts for February come out at 8:30 a.m. The number is forecast to jump to 915,000 from 890,000.

The Federal Open Market Committee begins its two-day meeting.

Wednesday

At 2 p.m., the FOMC issues its statement on monetary policy. The committee also releases its projections for major economic indicators such as the unemployment rate, gross domestic product and inflation.

Analysts do not expect any major change in policy or the interest rate. But the Fed is likely to maintain its effort to boost employment and signal that it sees lower inflation risks.

At 2:30, Bernanke holds a news conference to explain the Fed’s policy decision and its economic outlook.

Thursday

Initial unemployment claims are expected to rise to 341,000, from 332,000 last week.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency releases its housing price index for January at 9 a.m. It is forecast to rise by 0.7 percent.

Existing-home sales figures for February are to be released at 10 a.m. The number of sales is expected to hit 5 million, up from 4.92 million.

Amrita Jayakumar

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Amrita Jayakumar covers federal government contracting for Capital Business, The Post's local business publication.
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