There's lots of economic data to ring in the New Year next week, highlighted by reports on home prices, motor vehicle sales and consumer confidence. Markets are closed Wednesday for the New Year’s holiday.
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Investors will also be eager to hear from a handful of Federal Reserve members -- including outgoing Chair Ben Bernanke -- who are scheduled to speak during public appearances next week.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price index out Tuesday offers a glimpse of home prices in 20 U.S. cities. Home prices have been rising steadily during the past year and analysts are predicting the index will be 13.6% higher than the same period a year ago. Low mortgage rates for most of 2013 have pushed buyers back into the market, slimming down housing inventories and pushing prices higher.
December auto sales figures will be released Friday and the numbers are expected to show continued momentum in that key sector. Once again, low financing rates have been cited for breathing life into a domestic industry that nearly disappeared less than five years ago. Year-end discounts offered by dealers could further inflate the December numbers.
Economists are predicting a sharp increase in consumer confidence in December helped by strong recent labor reports that have pushed the headline unemployment rate down to 7%, still relatively high but the lowest in five years. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index is out Tuesday.
Construction spending data out Thursday should show solid gains in single family and multi-unit homes as demand for new housing has risen.
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Three manufacturing indexes are also out next week: the Dallas Federal Reserve’s Manufacturing Index on Monday; the Purchasing Manager’s Manufacturing Index and the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index, both on Thursday.
Bernanke is giving a speech Friday and may be questioned on the Fed’s decision, announced last week, to begin tapering its bond purchases in January. The Fed announced a modest reduction of $10 billion to its monthly bond purchase program known as quantitative easing. The decrease will lower the monthly amount of purchases to $75 billion.
Also speaking Friday are Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser and Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker.