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Big week for economic data

By Sheyna Steiner · Bankrate.com
Monday, February 13, 2012
Posted: 12 pm ET

It should be a big week for investors with many economic reports set to be released. It starts on Tuesday with the retail sales report for the month of January.

On Sunday, the website Marketwatch.com surveyed economists and predicted that retail sales increased 1 percent last month in the story, "Retail sales key to U.S. economic recovery." Without the auto sector, the increase is projected to be 0.7 percent.

But consumer spending may not be able to stay on track with the increases seen late last year.

Ryan Sweet of Moody’s notes that higher spending in the final months of 2011 was largely financed by debt. Consumers reduced their savings to pay for new cars and other goods.

He expects a pullback in spending as consumers pay off their holiday bills and rebuild their savings.

The retail sales report can have a major impact on the stock market as a result of what it says about consumer spending, inflation and the strength of sectors within the retail market.

Economic reports released on Wednesday will be capped by the minutes from January's Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which will show the full Summary of Economic Projections including the newly added forecast of the path of the federal funds rate.

Thursday will be a big day. It brings initial jobless claims for the preceding week as well as the producer price index and the Philadelphia Federal Index.

The jobless claims report tracks the initial unemployment insurance claims made during the previous week. Jobless claims have been trending down in recent weeks, and the four-week moving average recently hit the lowest measure since April 2008, the L.A. Times reported last week in the story "First-time unemployment claims sink to early-recession levels."

The producer price index tracks the prices producers charge for goods and services throughout the manufacturing process. Similar to the consumer price index, the core PPI tracks producer prices with food and energy costs stripped out. PPI can be an early harbinger of inflation, so it tends to be watched carefully.

The Philly Fed Index surveys manufacturers in the surrounding region. The report tends to be closely watched by investors due to its projections about business conditions and growth.

Finally, with the end of the week on Friday comes the Consumer Price Index and the core CPI, which tracks prices at the consumer level minus food and energy. The CPI is the main metric for tracking inflation over a given time frame.

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