Last week investors received several positive reports on the economy. Small business optimism improved to a 93.8 reading in January its highest level in four years. Housing starts increased by 1.5 percent in January and building permits, a gauge of future building activity, grew by nearly one percent. New claims for jobless benefits fell by 13,000 to 348,000 — its lowest level in nearly four years, signaling the labor market is recovering.
In the week ahead we’ll gain insight on consumers with earnings reports from Wal-Mart, Home Depot and JC Penney. We also expect several economic reports.
We’ll get two reads on housing, starting with the January existing home sales report which looks at previously owned homes. In December, sales rose five percent and housing inventory declined to six months, the lowest level since 2006.
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In December, sales fell by 2.2 percent driven by a huge sales decline in the South and the median price of a home fell 2.5 percent to 210,000 dollars.
Are you feeling better about the economy? We’ll find out with the final consumer sentiment report for February. Earlier this month sentiment declined to a 72.5 reading —- as consumer optimism dampened a bit. Consumer sentiment is a gauge of consumer spending.