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This week: How much stuff costs

By Sheyna Steiner · Bankrate.com
Monday, April 9, 2012
Posted: 12 pm ET

Another week brings more opportunities to gauge the economy, and investing opportunities, in the form of economic indicators.

For the second week of April, investors can look forward to the National Federation of Independent Business Index, the Beige Book, the producer price index, the Consumer Price Index and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index.

NFIB small business survey

On Tuesday, the National Federation of Independent Business will release their survey of small business owners for the month of March. The February reading of the NFIB small business survey, released last month, indicated an increase for the sixth consecutive month. Last month, Reuters reported that optimism had hit a year-high as more small businesses were planning to increase inventories and looked forward to an upswing in sales, according to the story "Small business confidence climbs to year-high."

Also, Moody's Analytics' Dismal Scientist website, Economy.com, reported that there had been an increase in the number of small firms planning to raise worker pay.

Investors may be interested in taking the temperature of small business owners this month as the increase in energy prices over the interim could have had a mitigating influence on that sunny picture.

The Beige Book

The Beige Book makes its third appearance of 2012 on Wednesday. It's released eight times per year and includes brief economic anecdotes from each of the 12 Federal Reserve banks and their surrounding regions.

Producer price index

On Thursday, the producer price index will come out. PPI measures changes in prices charged by producers and the change in cost throughout the manufacturing or production process.

Increases in producer prices can be an early indication of inflation.

Consumer Price Index

On Friday, the Consumer Price Index is released. CPI tracks the price that consumers pay for goods and services. Increases in the CPI indicate inflation is afoot.

The most commonly used metric for inflation takes the CPI and subtracts food and energy costs. This chart shows how volatile food and energy prices can skew the index.

Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index

Friday is also the day for another reading of consumer sentiment, this time from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan.  According to forecasts from Marketwatch.com, the consensus is that sentiment will be around the same level as last month, perhaps slightly higher.

Friday's report will reflect the preliminary reading, the final analysis will be released at the beginning of next month.

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