Week Ahead: Second-Quarter Earnings, Economic Data

Second-quarter earnings, Fed Chief Ben Bernanke before Congress and a flurry of economic data tied to housing, manufacturing and inflation are all due next week.

Citigroup (NYSE: C) leads the pack, releasing its second-quarter report on Monday. Tech giant Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) is out Tuesday. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) is due Wednesday. And Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is out Thursday.

Housing reports will take center stage with the National Association of Home Builders index due Tuesday, housing starts on Wednesday and sales of existing homes on Thursday.

Economists have forecasts of slight improvements for each gauge and any improvement to that long-stagnant market is welcome. As other sectors of the economy – notably manufacturing and labor -- have seen starts and stops as the recovery has struggled to gain momentum, housing has remained a virtual black hole. Record low mortgage rates, myriad government assistance programs and a vast inventory have done nothing to spur activity. Few people are buying homes and home values continue to drop.

Also due Monday are retails sales for the month of June, which should shed light on whether consumers are opening their wallets.

On Tuesday the Consumer Price Index is out, a bellwether measure of inflation.

A couple of gauges of regional manufacturing activity are also due next week: the New York Federal Reserve's Empire State survey is out Monday and the Philadelphia Fed survey is due Thursday. Both are expected to show improvement from a month ago.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will release its Beige Book, a survey of regional economic conditions.

Investors will also pay close attention to Bernanke’s testimony Tuesday and Wednesday before Congress during a semi-annual address on monetary policy. He will surely be questioned on whether or not the Fed is planning additional stimulus actions given recent predictions by Fed bankers that U.S. growth is slowing.

In minutes from the Fed’s June meeting released this week Fed members appear willing to make some moves if conditions continue to worsen. The debate is over the breadth and timing of the stimulus.