Last week the Federal Open Markets Committee had a major announcement when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke declared that current near-zero interest rates would continue as long as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent and inflation below 2.5 percent.

It was the first time in recent memory that the Fed signaled comfort with inflation above 2 percent, and the Fed paired the message with a decision to continue its monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities. Put together, it amounted to the biggest stimulus measure out of either the Fed or Congress in months.

Nothing so significant is expected this week, but that doesn’t mean we’ll lack for good data.


At 8:30 a.m., the Commerce Department announces the U.S. current account balance for the third quarter of 2012. That metric — which measures the U.S. balance of trade, investment, and income transfers with the rest of the world — is expected to fall to $103.4 billion from the second quarter’s $117.4 billion. A drop would suggest that exports are growing relative to imports.


Wednesday is housing day for economic data. Figures on new housing starts for November will be released at 8:30 a.m., and analysts expect the number to fall to 873,000 from 894,000 in October. However, new-housing permits are expected to rise to 875,000 from 868,000, a total that has already been revised up from an initial estimate of 866,000.


If Wednesday wasn’t enough housing for you, do not despair. Existing-home sales figures are due out Thursday at 10 a.m. Analysts expect to see an increase to 4.9 million from 4.79 million homes sold. Earlier in the day, continuing and initial jobless claims figures are due out from the Department of Labor. Continuing claims are expected to go up by 2,000, and initial claims are expected to increase by 17,000.


Figures on personal consumption expenditures, the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation metric, are due out at 8:30 a.m. The yearly inflation rate is expected to fall from 1.7 percent to 1.6 percent, far below the Fed’s new
2.5 percent ceiling.

— Dylan Matthews

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