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US Economics Week Ahead: No Change by the Fed

December 12th, 2009 Michael McDonough

There is no doubt that this week’s FOMC meeting will steal the economic headlines, however, the result is likely to be rather anticlimactic.  I do not anticipate any major changes to the FOMC’s statement, and certainly no shift in the target rate—despite last month’s better than expected employment data.  The Fed will not view a single data point as the start of a trend, and regardless of being on their minds the employment data will not have a significant impact at this meeting.  After Wednesday we will inevitably be one meeting closer to an eventual rate hike, however, ahead of any hike the Fed would remove the phrase  ‘extended period’ from the statement, and I do not yet believe that is in the cards.

Other important indicators this week include the producer price index, consumer price index, and industrial production.  On the inflation front both headline producer and consumer prices will face some upward pressure due to higher energy and food prices, while the core releases should remain tame.  Industrial production will face some headwinds from a relatively mild month reducing utility output, which should be more than offset by manufacturing output.  An increase in aggregate manufacturing hours worked during the month help to support this belief.

During the week we will also hear earnings from FedEx (FDX), Best Buy (BBY), Nike (NKE), Oracle (ORCL), and Research in Motion (RIMM) to name a few.  In other news, the Senate Banking Committee is expected to vote Thursday on the reconfirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke.  Boeing is also expected to conduct its first test flight of their new 787 Dreamliner, after numerous delays. Finally, President Obama will attend the UN Climate summit in Copenhagen to push for several environmental initiatives.

Here is the rest of this week’s US calendar:

Monday, Dec. 14

Nothing

Tuesday, Dec. 15

First day of the FOMC meeting

7:45 a.m. EST: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This weekly index tracks aggregate store sales across major US retailers, accounting for roughly 10% of total retail sales.  Given recent data supporting an increasing US saving rates and a worsening employment situation, this index could face some downward pressure.  Last week’s number fell -1.3% compared to a drop of -0.1% a week prior.

8:30 a.m. EST: November’s Producer Price Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): Rising food and energy prices during the month will likely place some upward momentum on the November’s PPI.  However, increments in the core number should be only modestly positive after falling -0.6% in October.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a monthly increment in headline PPI of 1.0%, compared to 0.2% for the core release.

8:30 a.m. EST: December’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey (Risk: Negative, Market Reaction: Moderate): Recent weakness in the manufacturing sector, combined with a declining new orders index could place additional downward pressure on the NY fed’s manufacturing survey for December after falling 11 points to 23.51 in November.  Nevertheless, the current Bloomberg consensus forecast is anticipating a rise in the month to 25.0.  As always it will be important to monitor the new orders-a forward looking component—, prices paid, and employment aspects of the survey.

8:55 a.m. EST: Redbook (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The Redbook is a weekly measurement of chain stores, discounters, and department store sales.  This indicator tends to be less significant than the ICSC-Goldman Store Sales in forecasting retail sales.  According to the Redbook store sales rose 1.2% last week on a yearly basis.

9:00 a.m. EST: October’s Treasury International Capital (TIC) Data (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report highlights the flow of financial instruments to and from the U.S. It indicates foreign demand for U.S. financial instruments and thus tends to have a stronger impact on the dollar and the bond markets than it does on equities.  But, given the recent record levels for treasury auctions, it will be interesting to monitor foreign demand for US debt.

9:15 a.m. EST: Industrial Production (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): A significant increment in manufacturing hours worked during the month—a positive for industrial production—will be partially offset by an anticipated decline in utility output, stemming from relatively mild weather across the country.  With this in mind the current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a monthly increment in industrial production of 0.6%, versus 0.1% in October, with capacity utilization rising to 71.2% from 70.7%

1:00 p.m. EST: December’s Housing Market Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): The NAHB Housing Survey, which measures home builder confidence, should continue to benefit from the extension/expansion of the first time home buyer tax credit.  However, numerous headwinds still exist for the sector so any improvements in December are likely to be modest.  The index was unchanged at 17 in November.

Wednesday, Dec. 16

7:00 a.m. EST: MBA Mortgage Applications (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This index, which tracks new mortgage applications tends to be a reasonable forward looking indicator for home sales, but issues including customers filling out numerous applications could skew the index.  Applications rose 8.5% last week after rising 2.1% a week prior.  Refinance applications climbed 11.1%, while purchase applications rose 4.0% on the back of attractive interest rates.  A wave of buyers, filling out multiple mortgage applications, that were looking to take advantage of the first time home buyer tax credit–originally set to expire on Nov. 30th–have already completed their transactions, and have recently reduced the demand for mortgages.    However, the recent extension of the first time home buyer tax credit should eventually bring a new set of buyers into the market, which could help support the purchase index over the coming months.

8:30 a.m. EST: November’s Consumer Price Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): As with the PPI, higher energy and food prices during the month will likely add some pressure on headline CPI, while core CPI should only show a modest rise. The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for an increment of 0.4% for the headline number, and 0.1% for core.  It may be important to note that headline CPI will likely experience its first year over year gain since February 2009.

8:30 a.m. EST: November’s Housing Starts (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): Housing starts look to be up in November on the back of good weather, after falling more than anticipated in October. Additionally, construction jobs declined by only -27K during the month compared to -56K in October. The Bloomberg consensus forecast anticipates starts to rise to 575K, versus 529K in October; I anticipate that new building permits should also rise during the month after declining by -4.0% a month prior—permits tend to be a forward looking indicator toward starts.

10:30 a.m. EST: EIA Petroleum Status Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report measures US domestic petroleum inventories.  Large unanticipated swings in this index could have a significant impact on energy prices.  Last week this report showed a decline of -3.8 million barrels versus a jump of 2.1 million barrels a week prior.

2:15 p.m. EST: December’s FOMC Announcement (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Very Significant): Despite being the week’s most eagerly anticipated piece of economic news, the outcome is likely to be somewhat anticlimactic.  I do not anticipate any major changes compared to November’s FOMC statement, and certainly no shift in the target rate.  The Fed will not view one month of better than anticipated employment data as a trend, and thus it is very unlikely to have a significant impact at this meeting, however, it will be on their minds.  Nevertheless, we will be one meeting closer to an eventual rate hike, but I do not yet anticipate the removal of the key phrase ‘extended period’ from the FOMC’s statement.  The Fed will likely reiterate that employment is still lagging and that “with substantial resource slack likely to continue to dampen cost pressures and with longer-term inflation expectations stable, the Committee expects that inflation will remain subdued for some time”.

Thursday, Dec. 17

8:30 a.m. EST: Third Quarter’s Current Account (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The third quarter current account deficit likely widened on the back of a wider trade deficit stemming from more expensive energy imports.  The current account deficit totaled $99 billion in the second quarter.

8:30 a.m. EST: Jobless Claims (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): Initial claims rose 17K last week to 474K, after falling 5K a week prior. Despite the decline in last week’s claim number the 4 week moving average improved to 473,750 from 481,500.  Improving initial claims are indicative of fewer job losses in the monthly employment report; however, the job situation will get worse before it gets better.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is expecting claims to come in at 465K, a decrease of -9K from last week.

10:00 a.m. EST: November’s Leading Indicators (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): November’s leading indicator index will likely show its 8th consecutive month of positive readings.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is expecting a +0.7% rise for the month, compared to a +0.3% increment in October.  The biggest positive contributions for the index will likely come from the yield curve, initial jobless claims, and the average workweek, while the University of Michigan’s consumer expectations index should be the largest negative factor.

10:00 a.m. EST: December’s Philadelphia Fed Survey (Risk: Negative, Market Reaction: Moderate): As with the NY fed survey, recent weakness in the manufacturing sector will likely place some downward pressure on the Philly fed survey.  The survey’s six month expectations index peaked at 60.1 in June and has since fallen to 36.8 in November—this tends to be an ominous sign for the spot reading.  Nevertheless, the current Bloomberg consensus forecast is anticipating only a modest decline to 16.5 from 16.7 in November.  However, the forecast range goes from a high of only 18.0 to a low of 6.9.

10:30 a.m. EST: EIA Natural Gas Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report highlights domestic natural gas inventories, which could have a significant impact on the energy sector.

4:30 p.m. EST: Fed Balance Sheet & Money Supply (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Since the Fed’s shift to quantitative easing, the balance sheet has become one method to measure to the Fed’s effectiveness.  The market will pay close attention to the reserve bank credit component, which measures factors supplying   providing reserves into the banking system.  The Fed’s balance sheet shrank last week to US$2.169trn from US$2.186trn, primarily due to a reduction in long-term loans to banks.    The fed’s balance sheet has slowly been shifting away from emergency lending facilities to Treasuries, agency debt, and mortgage-backed securities to help moderate long-term interest rates.

Friday, Dec. 18

Quadruple Witching

Enjoy the weekend!

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