With negotiations beginning in Congress to avert the sudden austerity that could occur on Jan. 1 absent legislative action, analysts will be watching this week’s economic data to see whether uncertainty about that outcome is inhibiting purchases.
Given that the Congressional Budget Office projects a recession bigger than those of 2001 or 1990 should the Bush tax cuts expire and automatic budget cuts kick in, businesses could be starting to steel themselves for another downturn. Should that happen, the United States would join Britain as one of a handful of countries to experience a “double-dip recession,” with an initial recovery stymied by a second slump.
At 10 a.m., the National Association of Home Builders releases its Housing Market Index for November, which analysts expect to remain unchanged from October, suggesting that the housing recovery is not picking up real speed.
Also at 10 a.m., figures on sales of existing homes in October are released. The total is projected to stay at 4.75 million, unchanged from September, when such sales dropped 1.7 percent. If this result holds up, it could suggest that the sector’s recovery is actually beginning to falter.
Monday was existing home sales day and Tuesday is newly built house sales day. The October figures for both building permits and new housing starts are to be released at 8:30 a.m.
Both figures are expected to take a beating. Housing starts are expected to number 840,000, a 3.7 percent drop from September. Permits are projected to drop as well, falling by 2.8 percent to 865,000. Both figures rose substantially in September, by 11.6 percent and 12.6 percent respectively, reflecting a desire on the part of home builders to start projects before the weather makes them untenable.
Christmas may not come early this year, but jobless claims numbers will. That figure, normally released by the Department of Labor on Thursday, has been moved ahead due to the Thanksgiving holiday, and will be released Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. instead. Analysts expect new claims to drop significantly to 400,000 from the previous week’s 439,000, perhaps reflecting employers’ hesitance to fire workers during the holiday. Continuing claims, however, are expected to stay constant.
Expect analysts to keep an eye on retail sales on Friday, which could give an early indication of the strength of consumer demand this year’s holiday season.