Week Ahead: Consumer Sentiment, Housing and Christmas

There are slim pickings next week on the economic calendar -- consumer sentiment and housing data -- as markets close early on Tuesday and are shut Wednesday for the Christmas holiday.

A report on consumer sentiment -- the University of Michigan’s Consumer Survey -- due Monday should give an indication of consumer activity during the busiest shopping season of the year, the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Consumer sentiment is read by economists as a lens on consumer spending -- if consumers are optimistic about their finances they will feel confident spending. Since consumer spending accounts for 70% of the    U.S. economy consumer sentiment is an important gauge on economic activity.

Strong jobs reports in October and November, as well as a bipartisan Congressional budget agreement announced earlier this month that could prevent further budget standoffs for at least two years, are expected to push consumer sentiment higher.

New home sales for November will be reported on Tuesday and the numbers are expected to pick up mildly from the fall, when home sales declined a bit because mortgage rates had ticked higher.

New home sales cut a broad swath across the economy as they impact the construction sector and retail sales because new homes need lumber, appliances, furniture, lawn care products, etc. The report is also an indication of the strength of the mortgage industry.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index is due on Tuesday and offers a limited but helpful gauge on the price of single-family homes.

A report on personal income and outlays, used to gauge inflation, is out Monday; and a report on durable goods orders, which measures manufacturing activity, is out Tuesday.