Lots of November economic data and a Federal Reserve meeting will be in the headlines this week.
Holiday reports have begun on a positive note; new data from the Commerce Department could confirm those early reports. November retail sales are forecast to have risen 0.6 percent, following a jump of 0.5 percent in October. That result would bode well for overall economic activity in the fourth quarter, which appears on track to be the strongest yet in 2011. Excluding volatile automobile and gasoline sales, retail receipts are expected to show similar results, with analysts expecting a gain of 0.5 percent.
The Fed’s policy committee holds a one-day meeting and is scheduled to make any announcements it has about 2:15. This should be a relatively quiet meeting; with economic data reasonably solid since the last time the Federal Open Market Committee met, no new moves to ease monetary policy are likely from the central bank. Rather, the likely result is continuity — keeping interest rates near zero, where they have been for three years, and making only modest tweaks to the central bank’s assessment of the economy.
Behind closed doors, Fed officials will probably discuss changes to how they communicate their goals and expectations to the public. They may, for example, begin releasing forecasts of what Fed officials expect their interest rate policies to be in the future, or name more explicit targets for inflation and the unemployment rate. However, these are knotty, difficult issues, and it’s not clear that there is enough consensus among Fed officials for major changes to be announced after this meeting, particularly given that the session will last only one day.
Industrial production data are out. Analysts expect the number to have risen a modest 0.2 percent in November, following a stronger October gain.
The Labor Department will release new wholesale inflation data that are expected to show a moderate, 0.2 percent rise in the November producer price index.
New consumer price data are released. Analysts expect a rise of 0.1 percent in November — regardless of whether volatile food and energy are included.
— Neil Irwin
What would a break-up of the euro currency area look like? Willem Buiter of Citigroup explores the question in the Financial Times. The answer in one word? Pandemonium. And to show how hard predicting the economic future is, the Economist’s Ryan Avent recounts what the magazine was saying about the economy — and how much it got wrong — in 1931.
Find links at washingtonpost.com/mustreads.