Week Ahead: Health-Care Law Goes to the Supreme Court

Economic data and a smattering of earnings are on next week’s calendar, but all eyes will be on the Supreme Court, where arguments begin over whether the Obama Administration’s health-care reform legislation is constitutional.

At issue is whether the government can require people to purchase health-care coverage or pay a penalty, the single most controversial aspect of the law.

Supporters say if everyone has to have health care insurance it will increase competition and drive down the cost. Opponents say the government has no right to force Americans to buy health insurance.

Three days of arguments start Monday in what many believe will be an historic battle to determine the power and scope of the federal government.

On Tuesday, an important gauge of consumer sentiment, the Conference Board's confidence index, is due, followed on Friday by the Reuters/University of Michigan sentiment index.

Consumers have been more optimistic of late with labor markets showing improvement in recent months. This should be backed up by reports on personal income and consumer spending, both due on Friday. The numbers are expected to show a slight improvement in February over January.

The S&P Case Shiller index of home prices is out Tuesday and it’s not expected to move much from the prior reading. Home prices have been in an historic slump since the housing market collapsed in 2008 and the market has lagged behind other economic sectors that have started to show signs of life, namely the labor market.

An important gauge of the manufacturing sector is due Wednesday with a report on durable goods orders.

On Thursday the government will release the third reading on fourth-quarter gross domestic product. The number is expected to be revised upwards slightly.

Earnings reports are due from a handful of bellwether retailers, including drugstore chain Walgreen (NYSE:WAG) and electronics retailer Best Buy (NYSE:BBY). Also due next week are earnings from retailers Family Dollar Stores (NYSE:FDO) and PVH Corp. (NYSE:PVH), which owns the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger labels.

Nine companies are scheduled to debut their shares next week in initial public offerings, the biggest week for IPOs in more than a year.