This Week, Feb. 21-25

Economic events for the week beginning Feb. 21

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Monday, February 21, 2011

A slew of data about the housing market will be the focus of economic news in this holiday-shortened week.

Tuesday

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index for December is scheduled to be released, and forecasters expect it to show that prices edged down 0.5 percent in 20 major cities. The index is calculated using a moving average of the previous three months, and captures when home sales close, not when contracts are agreed to. That means an expected dip in home prices - analysts predict a 2.3 percent drop in the year ended in January - should reflect the autumn lull in the economy. The question is whether the improved economic outlook over the past few months will translate into a firming up of home prices in early 2011.

Wednesday

The National Association of Realtors plans to release data on existing-home sales, which are expected to show that the pace of transactions edged down 1.5 percent in January, following a steep 12.3 percent rise in December. Even if the projection of a slight January dip proves accurate, it will be only a slight reversal of December's gains.

Thursday

Two more pieces of housing data before the weekend: The Commerce Department's new home sales data is expected to show an 8.8 percent decline in the pace of home purchases in January. It's not as bad as it sounds; it would represent only a partial reversal of a 17.5 percent gain in December.

And the Federal Housing Finance Agency is releasing its home-price index, which is expected to be unchanged.

Also Thursday, orders for durable goods are expected to show a rise of 3 percent. However, analysts expect orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a less volatile measure of trends in business investment, to have fallen 0.9 percent.

Friday

The Commerce Department is expected to revise its fourth-quarter gross domestic product estimate from 3.2 percent to 3.3 percent.

- Neil Irwin

Neil's Must Reads

How has Tim Geithner gone from being the most-attacked public servant in town to last man standing among President Obama's economic team? Noam Scheiber has the story in the New Republic. And the McKinsey Global Institute has a new report on the productivity gains the United States will need to maintain its global economic edge.

Find links at washingtonpost.com/mustreads


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