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Preview / Nov. 10 - 16

Reports to Be Issued on Production, Retail Sales

November 10, 2003|From Bloomberg News and Reuters

Investors focusing on economic data this week will have to wait until Thursday for the weekly initial jobless claims and international trade numbers, followed by Friday's producer price, retail sales and industrial production numbers.

Friday's Commerce Department report on retail sales is expected to show that Americans bought fewer automobiles in October and reined in their purchases at stores after spending last quarter at the fastest pace in six years. Retail sales may have declined 0.2% last month, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Excluding motor vehicles, sales probably increased at a slower pace than the previous month. The break follows a 6.6% growth rate in consumer spending during the July-to-September quarter that was the fastest since 1997.

Friday's Federal Reserve report on industrial production may show that manufacturers are taking up some of the slack in the economy this quarter by boosting production. According to the median estimate in the Bloomberg survey, the gauge of work performed at factories, mines and utilities is forecast to show a 0.4% increase in October, same as the month before.

Friday's producer price index, measuring price changes at the wholesale level, will give investors an early read on inflation. Strong indications of rising prices could prompt speculation that the Federal Reserve will lift the federal funds rate target from 1%, a 45-year low.

"Talk is probably going to start surfacing that the Fed's next move is to raise the fed funds target," Paul Cherney, chief market analyst at Standard & Poor's, told Reuters. "The question is when. The stronger data is going to start making people think sooner rather than later, but they [the Fed] couldn't possibly do it before March."

The Labor Department is expected to report a 0.2% rise in October producer prices after a 0.3% increase in September, according to Bloomberg. Excluding food and energy, prices paid to factories, farms and other producers are forecast to have risen 0.1% after no change.

On Thursday, the government is forecast to report initial jobless claims of 364,000 in the week that ended Saturday, compared with 348,000 the prior week, and may report a 0.5% rise in October import prices, erasing the prior month's decline.

The University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment for October may rise to 91.3, the highest since May, from September's 89.6, according to the median estimate. The report comes out Friday.

The last of the major third-quarter earnings also will trickle down this week, with large retailers in focus.

J.C. Penney Co. will report Tuesday, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest chain, and Target Corp. report Thursday.

Investors already have a grasp on monthly sales figures at the major stores, but will be looking out for any forecasts on holiday season shopping, the busiest period of the year.

Among other major companies reporting are PC giant Dell Inc. and coffee and snack chain Starbucks Corp. -- both Thursday.

The reports will wrap up what has been a highly successful quarter for U.S. corporations. Of the 443 S&P 500 companies that had reported third-quarter earnings by Friday, 65% beat Wall Street's average profit estimate, according to Reuters Research.

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