Besides the European debt crisis weighing on the markets last week, there were also several reports for investors to analyze. Small business optimism fell in March, it first decline in six months as businesses were pessimistic about sales. Consumer prices rose slightly in March due to higher gas prices…and new claims for jobless benefits rose by 13,000 to 380,000, the first increase since January. In the week ahead investors expect earnings reports from Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Bank of America as well as data on housing, production and retail.
We’ll get a check on housing with the March housing starts report. In February new construction fell 1.1 percent— led by a slowdown in single family homes, but building permits, a gauge of future building activity, rose 5 percent
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We’ll gain insight on the economy with the March industrial production report, which tracks activity in manufacturing, mining and utilities. In February industrial production was unchanged from the previous month — gains in manufacturing were offset by a decline in utilities usage due to warmer weather.
We’ll get a read on consumers with the March retail sales report, which tracks food, clothing and auto sales. In February retail sales rose 1.1 percent, its biggest gain in five months, driven by auto sales and higher gas prices.