This Week, March 14-18

Economic events for the week beginning March 14

Monday, March 14, 2011

A drumbeat of economic news this week should offer the latest reads on inflation, housing, the industrial sector and Federal Reserve policy.

Tuesday

The Federal Reserve's policy committee meets for the second time this year. More so than at its last gathering, in late January, there are storm clouds on the horizon, most notably a recent rise in prices for oil and other commodities. But at the same time, economic data have generally supported the idea that the recovery continues to gain momentum in the United States.

Given that mixed picture, there will almost certainly be a tone of continuity out of the Fed when it releases its policy statement Tuesday afternoon. The central bank will surely keep its target interest rate near zero and continue with its plans to buy $75 billion in Treasury bonds a month through June. However, in its language describing the environment, the Fed will probably acknowledge the rise in oil prices.

Wednesday

Data on housing starts for February should give a read on the continued weakness in the residential sector. Forecasters are expecting that the number of homes started fell 4.4 percent last month, after a sharp January rise. The number of permits is forecast to have edged up 1.2 percent.

The Labor Department plans to release wholesale inflation data, which should show how much the rise in fuel prices is affecting businesses as they buy raw materials. Analysts expect the producer price index to have risen 0.7 percent in February, but the increase would amount to only 0.2 percent when food and energy are excluded.

Thursday

Consumer prices probably showed a similar trend. Forecasters expect that the consumer price index rose 0.4 percent last month. But when food and energy are excluded, the increase would be only 0.1 percent .

Industrial production is expected to have surged 0.6 percent in February. The manufacturing sector has proven among the strongest parts of the economy in the past few months, according to a variety of surveys, so analysts expect overall industrial output to have risen enough to push the sector up to 76.5 percent capacity utilization, from 76.1 percent.

- Neil Irwin

Neil's Must Reads

Jim Tankersley at National Journal explores five major areas of risk that could send the U.S. economy into a tailspin once again. And at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen presents a list of the analytical mistakes most commonly made by conservative and liberal-leaning economists.

Find links at washingtonpost.com/mustreads


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