The Week Ahead
FOMC MEETING Tuesday, Mar. 25 -- The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve Board will meet to set monetary policy for the next six weeks. A slight majority of economists surveyed by MMS International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies, thinks the policymakers will keep short-term interest rates unchanged, leaving the federal funds rate at 5.25%. However, almost all economists surveyed by MMS expect a rate hike by the May 20 meeting, as solid economic growth, tight labor markets, and nascent cost pressures raise inflation prospects. The Fed has not moved rates since January, 1996, when it cut the fed funds rate a quarter point. EXISTING HOME SALES Tuesday, Mar. 25, 10 a.m.EST -- Existing home sales probably increased slightly, to an annual rate of 3.95 million in February, after rising 2.1%, to 3.94 million, in January. Although bond yields are rising, mortgage rates have not increased enough to choke off housing demand. CONSUMER CONFIDENCE Tuesday, Mar. 25, 10 a.m.EST -- The Conference Board's index of consumer sentiment probably fell only a bit in March, to a reading of 118, from 118.4 in February. The big surprise in the February data came in the present-situation index, which rose from 141.2 to 143.4, a 27-year high. DURABLE GOODS ORDERS Wednesday, Mar. 26, 8:30 a.m.EST -- The MMS survey expects that new orders taken by durable-goods manufacturers likely dropped 0.3% in February, following a 4% increase in January. The backlog of unfilled orders was probably unchanged in February after rising 1%. NEW HOME SALES Friday, Mar. 28, 10 a.m.EST -- New single-family homes probably sold at an annual rate of 860,000 in February. The housing market in January surprised almost everyone: New home sales jumped 8.6%, to an 870,000 pace, so some fallback is expected in February.
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