Besides monitoring the European debt crisis, investors also had quite a few economic reports to sift through.

Small business optimism rose two points in April to a 94. 5 reading, it’s best reading in a year. As sales improved the trade deficit grew by 14.1 percent to nearly 52 billion dollars, the largest gap in nearly a year. New claims for jobless benefits fell by one-thousand to 367-thousand, but a level below 375-thousand eases fears about softness in the labor market…in the week ahead, we’ll get a read on consumers with earnings reports from Wal-Mart, Home Depot and J.C. Penney. We also expect data on housing, production and inflation.

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We’ll get a check on housing with the April housing starts report. In March new construction fell by nearly 6 percent due to a slowdown in multi-family homes, but building permits – a gauge of future building activity rose, 4.5 percent.

We’ll gain insight on the economy with the April industrial production report, which tracks activity in manufacturing, mining and utilities. In March industrial production was flat — as a decline in manufacturing offset gains in utility usage.

We’ll get a read on inflation with the April consumer price index report —which tracks price changes for food, clothing and energy. In March, prices rose 0.003 percent, fueled by higher gas prices.