Week Ahead: Housing Data and Fed Minutes

Housing data and all things Federal Reserve will highlight next week’s economic calendar.

The housing reports should shed light on demand for homes as mortgage rates creep higher. The interest rate on a 30-year mortgage has jumped more than a point to about 4.5% since hitting a bottom in May.

Rates have risen as the Fed is widely expected before the end of the year to begin scaling back stimulus programs that have kept long-term interest rates such as mortgages low in an effort to spur economic activity.

While mortgage rates remain near their lowest point in decades, analysts believe rising mortgage rates could push some potential homebuyers out of the market.

A report on existing home sales is due Wednesday and a report on newly constructed homes is out Friday.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency on Thursday will release data on the prices of homes purchased in June. Prices in many areas of the U.S. have seen substantial increases in 2013.

The Fed on Wednesday will release the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s July meeting. The Fed made no changes to its policies at the meeting but appears poised to begin scaling back its easy money policies. The minutes should shed light on the debate over when and how to start tapering.

On Friday Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen will make a speech and investors will be looking to see if she joins a chorus of Fed voices in recent weeks who have taken pains to convey the message that tapering is imminent.

Several bellwether retail companies will report earnings next week as the second quarter season wraps up. They include: Guess? (NYSE:GES), Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS), Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS), Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS), and Home Depot (NYSE:HD).