By Kasra Kangarloo

WASHINGTON (MNI) – The week ahead will feature some important U.S.
economic releases, including a string of housing market data and
regional manufacturing surveys, as well as retail sales for March.

Retail sales, to be released Monday at 8:30 a.m. ET, starts off the
week, with the real question being whether or not gasoline prices will
prove a drag on consumer spending.

So far this has not been the case, as January and February sales
have both beaten forecasts. A lower-than-expected sales rate could also
power the narrative that the pace of the recovery may be slowing, as
March payrolls were weaker than expected.

Initial jobless claims could also add to this narrative, as the
previous week’s data hit the highest level since January. Though the
week featured a great deal of seasonal volatility — namely the Easter
holiday — it could still be indicative of a break from the general
downward trend in data over the past few months.

Housing data for the week include the National Association of Home
Builders housing market index, to be released Monday at 10:00 a.m. ET,
housing starts and building permits, to be released Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
ET, and existing home sales, to be released Thursday at 10:00 a.m. ET.

The NAHB index has been a notable bright spot for housing data,
holding at a near-five year high for the past two months as housing
construction has picked up for multi-family homes. This trend has also
been reflected by relative strength in housing starts over past months.
Existing home sales, however, has been less consistent, though the
figure is expected to rise slightly in the coming report.

The New York Fed’s Empire State manufacturing survey and
Philadelphia Federal Reserve business outlook survey could be
overshadowed by other, concurrent releases. Empire manufacturing will be
released Monday at 8:30 a.m. ET — the same as retail sales — and the
Philadelphia Fed data will be released Thursday at 10:00 a.m. ET, same
as existing home sales.

The two reports are the first regional manufacturing data for
April, and both have shown renewed strength in past months, though the
correlation between regional reports and the Institute of Supply
Managers national manufacturing index can be inconsistent.

Other releases over the week include Industrial Production Tuesday
at 9:15 a.m. ET, Treasury International Capital Flows Monday at 9:00
a.m. ET, Business Inventories Monday at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Mortgage
Bankers Association’s weekly mortgage applications survey Wednesday at
7:00 a.m. ET, and the Conference Board’s leading economic indicators
Thursday at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Federal Reserve speakers for the week are light due to the blackout
period before the meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee the
following week. Cleveland Federal Reserve President Pianalto speaks on
banking and the economy in Lexington, Kentucky Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET
and St. Louis Fed President Bullard speaks on the economy and monetary
policy at Utah State University Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

–Kasra Kangarloo is a reporter for Need to Know News in Washington

** MNI Washington Bureau: 202-371-2121 **