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On the radar: Look forward to the February 18 week and FOMC meeting minutes

With another government shutdown averted, the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis will be able to continue to release its backlog of delayed reports and work to get the economic report schedule back on track.

Monday is a federal holiday to observe Presidents Day and there will be a full close for both stock and bond markets.

However, the coming week has a relatively light data schedule that is concentrated in a group of reports set for Thursday morning.

Government reports on the housing market are not yet caught up, but there is still sufficient data from private sources to assess recent conditions. The February numbers for the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index at 10:00 ET on Tuesday probably won’t suggest any rebound in builders’ view of overall conditions after the small lift to 58 in January after 56 in December. Further declines in mortgage interest rates will be a positive for the outlook but weakened consumer confidence since the start of the year could well offset that.  The NAR numbers of sales of existing homes in January at 10:00 ET on Thursday could rise from the three-year low of 4.99 million units in December. However, the same factors are likely to keep sales restrained in addition to limited inventories of the more sought-after units.

The next of the District Bank surveys of manufacturing is the Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook for February at 8:30 ET on Thursday. In January, the general business conditions index rose solidly to 17.0 from 9.1 in December. However, part of that reflected a surge in new orders that is not likely to be repeated in February. Although conditions should remain in expansionary territory, it is not expected to be more than moderately so.

Last month the Conference Board published the Leading Economic Index for December without the previously scheduled annual revision due to the absence of some of the data during the shutdown.  The lag in getting the data for manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials for November and December and building permits for December forced them to estimate the data. There may be some further delay for the revision as the December numbers for new orders will not be available until the same morning and the permits report until February 26. However, the Conference Board should still publish the January Leading Economic Index at 10:00 ET.

New orders for durable goods in December at 8:30 ET on Thursday are expected to get a nice boost from strong bookings for aircraft and parts at year-end. Even though the seasonal adjustment factors anticipate a solid increase, this year could overwhelm that. Boeing reported a total of 218 new orders for aircraft, up 167 from the prior month.

Initial jobless claims for the week ended February 16 should start to decline again after the 4,000 rise to 239,000 in the prior week. Improved weather and further ebbing of the effects of the shutdown should be evidence in the report.

On Wednesday at 14:00 ET, the Fed will release the minutes of the January 29-30 FOMC meeting. Of particular interest will be policymakers’ assessment of risks to the economic outlook and perhaps the nature of what constitutes “patience” regarding future changes to monetary policy. This was also the meeting that precedes the Chair’s semiannual monetary policy testimony, and the Chair’s prepared remarks could echo the minutes closely when delivered on February 26 and 27.



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