Last week, the nation’s trade deficit expanded beyond analysts’ expectations, reaching a seven-month high.

A wider trade gap means that the country’s imports exceeded its exports, which is not necessarily a good sign for growth.

Still, other data suggested the housing recovery is gathering steam. Mortgage rates rose significantly; the 30-year fixed rate reached an eight-month high of 3.4 percent.

With the expiration of the payroll tax cut last week, millions of American workers received a smaller paycheck for the first time in two years. How this affects their spending habits should become clearer in the following weeks.

This week’s economic indicators should help shed light on the state of the economy until then.


Retail sales numbers for December come out at 8:30 a.m. The data are likely to offer the first gauge of last year’s holiday shopping season. Analysts expect sales excluding autos and gas to rise by 0.4 percent, a slight increase from November.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also releases December’s producer price index at 8:30 a.m. This index measures the average price change for domestic producers.

Forecasters predict that the index will drop by 0.1 percent, as falling gas prices balance increasing food prices. The index fell 0.8­­ percent in November.


The National Association of Home Builders releases its monthly home builders’ index at 10 a.m. It is expected to rise a notch, to 48.

The Federal Reserve’s “beige book,” which provides an anecdotal look at current economic conditions, is made public at 2 p.m. In November, the Fed said the economy was expanding at a “measured” pace.


A warmer-than-usual December should spell an increase for housing starts, which come out at 8:30 a.m. Analysts expect an increase of almost 3 percent.

Weekly jobless claims will be announced as well. They are expected to fall slightly, to 370,000.


Analysts expect the data on consumer sentiment, which come out at 9:55 a.m., to show a slight improvement.

—Amrita Jayakumar

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