Besides keeping a watchful eye on the markets, investors had plenty of economic data to sift through last week. The economy grew slightly during the fourth quarter, marking the slowest growth since early 2011. Home prices rose nearly one percent in December with Las Vegas, Phoenix and Atlanta posting some of the biggest gains. Meanwhile, new home sales jumped by 16% in January, to its fastest pace in more than four years. In the week ahead investors expect data on jobs, retail and consumer credit.
Where are the jobs? We’ll find out with the February employment report. In January the unemployment rate rose slightly to 7.9% as 157, jobs were created. Retail and construction added the most jobs. African-American unemployment fell to 13.8 percent, and black teen unemployment declined to 37.8%, but remains the highest of any group.
We’ll get a read on the retail sector and consumer spending with the February chain store sales data. In January same store sales rose 5.8% overall, despite the payroll tax hike, as cooler weather boosted sales. Macy’s, for example, posted a nearly 12 percent increase in sales.
We’ll gain insight on consumer finances with the January consumer credit report, which tracks credit card, auto and student loans. In December consumer credit rose by $4.6B, led by sharp increases in auto and student loans.