Last week, the job market showed signs of a comeback as the nation’s unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 7.7 percent.
This week is likely to be a quiet one for economic data. Retail figures and jobless claims should offer more clues about the economy before this month’s federal budget cuts kicked in.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) releases its small-business optimism index for February at 7:30 a.m. The index is expected to rise a notch to 90, from 88.9 in January.
The Treasury Department’s monthly federal budget report is out at 2 p.m. In January, the government registered an unexpected budget surplus of $3 billion, driven by the expiration of the payroll tax cut. Analysts expect a deficit of $205 billion in February.
Next month’s budget report should be more interesting, since it will reflect the effects of sequestration.
Advance retail sales numbers are released at 8:30 a.m. Forecasters expect an increase of 0.5 percent in February. Overall, retailers have experienced a mixed month. The sector added jobs even as Americans cut back on their spending in February.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its monthly import price index for February. An increase of 0.5 percent is expected.
Business inventories for January are out at 10 a.m. They are also expected to rise slightly, to 0.4 percent.
Weekly jobless claims come out at 8:30 a.m. The previous week witnessed a surprising drop in claims and a five-year low in the number of people who collected unemployment insurance, another sign of an improving job market. Forecasters expect initial claims to climb back to 350,000 this week.
The Producer Price Index for February, to be released at 8:30 a.m., is forecast to increase by 0.7 percent.
The Consumer Price Index for February is out at 8:30 a.m. The index gauges price changes in goods and services, and serves as a measure of inflation. Analysts expect it to rise by 0.5 percent after remaining flat in January.
Industrial production data is released at 9:15 a.m. The index is forecast to rise by 0.4 percent in February after a slight decline in January.
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