Retail sales, housing data and a key inflation measure are all due next week, and Janet Yellen could take another step toward becoming the first woman to head the Federal Reserve.
October retail sales will be released on Wednesday. Analysts believe the numbers could be down a bit from September as consumers held off on buying during the 16-day partial government shutdown in early October that also brought a threat of a U.S. default.
Also due Wednesday is a report on existing home sales. The housing market was gaining strength in the spring but fell off a bit in the summer and fall as mortgage rates crept higher.
The consumer price index, also due on Wednesday, is likely to hold steady at current levels. Analysts are citing a sharp drop in gasoline prices combined with slightly higher prices for an array of consumer goods. The producer price index, which gauges the costs of goods for manufacturers, is due on Thursday.
The Fed will release the minutes from its October meeting on Wednesday and investors will parse through the notes seeking clues as to when the central bank may shift away from its easy-money policies. Good luck with that.
Last month the Fed voted to maintain its $85-billion-a-month bond purchase program at its current level and to keep interest rates at their historically low rates.
In other Fed news, the Senate Banking committee could take a vote on the nomination of Yellen to succeed current Fed Chair Ben Bernanke at the helm of the central bank. Yellen testified before the committee on Thursday and all signs indicate they will approve her nomination and send it to the full Senate. Yellen has easily enough Democratic votes in the full Senate for approval.
Meanwhile, lots of Fed speakers next week: Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, New York Fed President William Dudley, Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota on Monday; Chicago Fed President Charles Evans and Fed Chair Bernanke on Tuesday; St. Louis Fed President James Bullard on Wednesday; and Kansas City Fed President Esther George on Friday.