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Little cheer in macroeconomic reports

12/17/2012 @ 7:17am

The last full week of U.S. economic data in 2012 is expected to offer investors limited cheer.

The flurry of reports will include indicators from all fronts. That includes a final read on the prior quarter's economic performance, an update on the country's housing market, the latest on how consumers are feeling and some numbers on regional manufacturing activity.

First up Monday is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Empire State factory survey, expected to improve this month, but remain in contractionary territory. The median forecast from economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires is -1.0, from -5.2 in November.

Regional Fed surveys out of Philadelphia and Kansas City are due later in the week. Results below zero reflect shrinking manufacturing activity.

Mid-week, investors will get an update on the U.S. housing market, which has been a silver lining for the economy this year. The upward trend is expected to continue, with the National Association of Home Builders index seen ticking up to 47, from 46 last month.

Even though the number of home constructions that broke ground in November is expected to have been held back because of superstorm Sandy, building permits in that period are seen rising 1.4%. Sales of existing homes last month are also expected to increase, up 2.3%.

On Friday, Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan will publish its final gauge on consumer sentiment this month. The index is seen recovering a tad to 75.0, after an unexpectedly sharp drop to 74.5 in the initial December read.

Altogether, these various pieces of the U.S. economy point to slow but steady growth. A final take on third-quarter GDP is expected at 2.9%, better than the 2.7% last reported.

Of course, the outlook on U.S. growth hinges greatly on the fiscal negotiations still going on in Washington. A budget deal is needed before year's end to avoid the fiscal cliff, a mix of tax increases and spending cuts that would easily drag the economy back into recession.

MarketWatch's Polya Lesova stopped by the Markets Hub this morning to preview next week:

Here's your handy clip-and-save data calendar:

Monday

Economics:

8:30 a.m., ET: New York Fed December Empire State Survey: seen: -1.0; last: -5.2

Earnings:

Weatherford International

Tuesday

Economics:

8:30 a.m.: Third-Quarter Current Account Balance: seen: -$103.5 billion; last: -$117.4 billion

10:00: December NAHB Housing Market Index: seen: 47; last: 46

Earnings:

Oracle, FactSet, Sanderson Farms, Jefferies Group, AAR, Apogee Enterprises

Wednesday

Economics:

8:30 a.m.: November Housing Starts: seen: -3.2%; last: +3.6%

8:30: November Building Permits: seen: +1.4%; last: -2.5%

Earnings:

FedEx, General Mills, Jabil Circuit, Accenture, Bed Bath & Beyond

Thursday

Economics:

8:30 a.m.: Weekly Jobless Claims: seen: 362,000; last: 343,000

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