FOMC Minutes Lead Economic Data for the Week of May 20

Andrew Klips |

NYSE Wall StreetAfter a raft of economic data last week that gave some mixed signals about the strength of the U.S. economy, news from Washington will slow down a bit this week, but still include some important information. Aside from the typical reports mentioned below, investors and economists will be scouring the minutes on Wednesday from the latest Federal Open Market Committee that was held three weeks ago. Discussions flared up last week over the Fed possibly winding-down their $85-bilion-per-month bond purchasing program with several Federal Reserve leaders voicing their opinion that its time to taper the monetary easing efforts that have largely been attributed to steep ascent of the markets.

Market moving reports on tap this week, include:

Wednesday

Existing Home Sales for April – Last month, the National Association of Realtors reported that sales of pre-owned homes, which are completed transactions that include townhomes, single-family homes and co-ops, contracted to 0.6 percent in March as compared to February to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.92 million. In January in February, the rate had increased 0.8 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. Compared to March 2012, sales were up by 10.3 percent. For April, economists are expecting the rate to rise to 5.0 million.

Thursday

Initial Jobless Claims for the Week Ended May 18 – Economists have struggled with putting their finger on where first time filings for jobless benefits will come in each week. After registering five-year lows the week earlier (far better than expected), claims spiked in the week ended May 11 by 32,000 up to 360,000 (far worse than expected), representing the largest one-week jump since November. Last week was a bit of a reality check for the jobs market by snapping a string of weekly declines that inspired chatter of an accelerating labor market. This week, economists are expecting the number of claims to retreat to 345,000.

New Home Sales for April – The Commerce Department reported last month that new home sales rebounded in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 417,000, an increase of 1.5 percent from February. The pace was just short of predictions of economists. The median price of a new home increased by 3 percent compared in March 2012, equaling $247,000 last month. The two prior months were particularly volatile with January showing a 14.1 percent surge and February showing a 7.6 percent fall. The housing market has been a particular bright spot for the economy in the past year and economists are looking for strength again in April with average calls for an increase in the annual pace to about 428,000.

To a lesser extent, investors will be looking at Markit’s Flash PMI and the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index.

Friday

Durable Goods Orders for April – Big swings in the transportation component have tossed orders for durable goods, items from toasters to aircraft meant to last more than three years, in recent months. After a 4.3 percent rise in February, orders dove 5.8 percent in March, exceeding expectations and signaling the country hit a bump in the road in manufacturing that month. Excluding transportation, orders rose 0.1 percent, following a 0.9 percent rise in February. Orders for non-defense capital goods were the rare shiny spot in the report with an increase of 0.2 percent. For April, economists are expecting total new orders to improve by 1.3 percent and 0.4 percent (excluding transportation) as compared to March.

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