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A cornucopia of numbers to pick through

Monday, October 26, 2009

A wide array of economic data should provide insight into the state of the housing market, consumers, the manufacturing industry and the overall economy.

It begins Tuesday with the release of the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index of housing prices nationwide. After years of declines that precipitated the credit crisis and recession, housing prices nationally have been rising recently. They increased 1.6 percent in July from June, the most recent measure, which was the biggest one-month jump in more than four years.

Also Tuesday comes a monthly survey by the Conference Board, a private research group that measures consumer confidence in the economy. After plummeting for months, consumer confidence jumped in August before declining yet again in September.

The Commerce Department on Wednesday will offer data on durable goods orders -- which are new orders placed with U.S. manufacturing companies for future delivery of goods such as refrigerators or cars. Last month's durable goods report showed an unexpected decline in orders, as the federal government's "Cash for Clunkers" program ended.

On Thursday comes a report on the growth of the U.S. economy, as measured by the gross domestic product. This will be the first estimate for the quarter ended Sept. 30, a period when economic growth might have restarted.

Finally, Friday brings a report on personal income and outlays, another measure of the economic conditions of ordinary Americans. This has been rising in recent months.

Beyond the economic numbers, Congress will likely be a hotbed of activity relating to the nation's financial system this week. The House Financial Services Committee takes up several regulatory bills. These include new oversight of hedge funds, venture capital funds and private equity; new investor protections; and new regulations for credit rating agencies.

On Wednesday, the Treasury Department's compensation czar, Kenneth R. Feinberg, is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a few days after he dramatically limited compensation at the seven firms that have received extraordinary government bailouts.

-- Zachary A. Goldfarb

MUST READS: Steven Rattner, formerly the government's auto czar, offers a detailed account of his decisions in Fortune magazine.

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