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Focus on trade, consumers and PPI

By Sheyna Steiner · Bankrate.com
Monday, May 7, 2012
Posted: 2 pm ET

It's a relatively slow week for economic indicators that could have an impact on the stock market and investors.

Monday: Consumer credit

The Federal Reserve kicks the week off with changes in consumer credit. Today's report will look back at the changes in consumer credit in March.

Total consumer credit seasonally adjusted at an annual rate
Percent change of total consumer credit, seasonally adjusted at an annual rate

Source: Federal Reserve.

Thursday: Initial jobless claims

The weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance are reported each Thursday. As it sounds, the report covers the number of people applying for unemployment benefits for the first time.

Claims were disconcertingly high in recent weeks but fell last week by 27,000 to 365,000, seasonally adjusted.

Though the actual initial-claims number garners headlines, the moving average is the most-watched metric. Initial claims can be volatile and unpredictable, but the four-week moving average, also reported on Thursday, helps observers watch the trends rather than focusing on week-to-week volatility.

Last week's report spanned the week ending April 28; this week will cover through May 5.

Trade balance

Economists use the trade balance as one metric for tracking the economy. You may see references to the current account most often when reading about the trade balance. It's the difference between the dollar amount of goods and services exported and those that are imported.

When a country imports more than it exports, it's said to have a trade deficit -- which we do, and have for some time.

Thursday's report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Commerce Department will cover the month of March.

Friday: Producer Price Index

On Friday we'll see if prices have increased at the wholesale level in the Producer Price Index. When prices are on the rise for businesses, it generally means consumers will be feeling it down the road.

The year-over-year measure is typically more impactful on the stock market than the month-to-month measure, which can be more unpredictable.

Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index

Also on Friday, investors get another survey taking the temperature of consumers, this time from Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan. The index measures consumers' attitudes toward spending and business.

Follow me on Twitter @SheynaSteiner

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