Key economic events for the week of Oct. 31

October 30, 2011

It could be a busy week for economic news as the Federal Reserve meets and new data is released on factory activity, housing and jobs.

Tuesday

The Institute for Supply Management releases its index of activity at the nation’s manufacturing firms in October, offering an early read on whether assembly lines continued chugging in the month. Analysts expect the survey to show a slight acceleration, with the index forecast to be 52, up from 51.6 in September.

Wednesday

The Federal Reserve concludes a two-day policy meeting, and there probably will be a lot for economy-watchers to chew on.

The central bank will release projections for unemployment, growth and inflation in the years ahead. The estimates are likely to be somewhat weaker than the last time the Fed released such projections in late June. At that time, leaders of the central bank projected that unemployment would fall to 7.8 to 8.2 percent by the end of 2012, and that the U.S. economy would grow 3.3 to 3.7 percent. Both numbers seem optimistic now.

Responding to that weaker outlook, the Fed eased monetary policy at its last two meetings, so it is unlikely it will do it again this time (particularly since the economic data have not really worsened since the Fed last met in mid-September). However, some big conversations are underway about future policy, and Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, in a news conference scheduled for the afternoon, could offer insights into what’s to come.

The Fed has been discussing whether to make its monetary policy more explicitly conditional on specific economic results, and there is likely to be a full discussion of such a strategy behind closed doors. Some on the policy committee also are advocating new measures to boost housing.

Friday

A new report should tell how the job market held up in October. Analysts are expecting that employers added a modest 95,000 jobs, which would point to continued slow economic expansion. The unemployment rate is expected to have been unchanged at 9.1 percent.

— Neil Irwin

Neil’s
Must Reads

What do horror movies have to teach about economic policy? As a Halloween treat, Peter Matheson of the British Embassy offers some lessons on the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog.

And Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon has a smart take on Greek credit default swaps.

Find links at washingtonpost.com/

mustreads.

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