This week is a kind of mini-referendum on the Federal Reserve, the U.S. economy, and oil prices.
Think of it one where some chickens come home to roost. (Hence the photo.)
It’s not a big week for economic data but what there is is suggestive.
On Wednesday, for example, we get numbers on existing home sales and U.S. oil inventories.
Last week’s report on new home sales was just a little disappointing and with everyone and my aunt Nellie worried that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increase will slow vulnerable sectors such as home building, this report is likely to get a lot of attention even though it really is too soon for the Fed’s move to show up in mortgage rates. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com are projecting annualized sales of 5.52 million houses for May. That would be slightly below the 5.57 million annualized rate for April. A figure below consensus projections is likely to set tongues wagging. (New home sales data follow on Friday with projections looking for annualized sales of 599,000 for May. That would be a huge improvement from the disappointing 569,000 rate from April, but the much higher projection also means there’s lots of room for disappointment.)
The last drop in oil prices was set off by higher than expected U.S. oil inventories, which focused attention on an increase in production from Nigeria and Libya, neither bound by OPEC’s agreement to reduce production, and forecasts of record production from U.S. oil shale companies in 2017 and 2018. One thing to watch–gasoline inventories. Oil inventories are supposed to fall in spring and early summer as refineries go into full swing to meet summer gasoline demand. The last report, however, said that gasoline inventories already looked ample. If that’s true the oil market in the United States might see a smaller than usual draw down in oil inventories for the summer driving season.
The financial markets are a little worried about the possibility of slowing U.S. economic growth. Last thing a nervous market needs is data that makes its worries seem justified.