No major economic reports are on the slate Monday. On the corporate front, The Independent Community Bankers of America kicks off its national convention in Las Vegas. We sure wish we could be there, because there should be some gems making major inroads in new mortgage lending these days. The Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS) Global Services Conference is highlighting presentations by Republic Services (NYSE: RSG), Apollo Group (Nasdaq: APOL) and American Public Education (Nasdaq: APEI) today. The day’s earnings schedule highlights presentations by Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS), Urban Outfitters (Nasdaq: URBN), Black Diamond (NYSE: BDE), Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ), Chiquita Brands International (NYSE: CQB), CVR Energy (NYSE: CVR) and CytRx (Nasdaq: CYTR).
Small businessmen will weigh in on the economy Tuesday when the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) publishes its monthly Small Business Optimism Index at 7:30 AM EDT. Economists expect the index to improve to a mark of 90.1, up from 88.9 last month. That’s still a relatively poor level of optimism, but an indication that partisan politics have been an obstacle to business.
The regular weekly same-store sales data for the period ending March 9 is due in the early AM as well Tuesday. Last week’s report from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) showed weekly sales increased by 0.2% in the March 2 ending period, versus the 0.1% increase the week before. On a year-to-year basis, sales were up 1.8%, versus the prior week’s measure of 2.9%. Redbook’s year-to-year comparison showed sales growth of 2.2%, versus the prior week increase of 2.7%. Holidays and weather come to play at this time of year and make it hard for a good read.
At 2:00 PM, investors will want to see the latest Treasury Budget. The February budget usually carries a significant deficit, averaging $159.1 billion over the last 10 years. Economists see a deficit of $205 billion for this February. January’s budget produced a $2.9 billion surplus, though excluding special calendar factors, the data would have shown a $13 billion deficit.
A Senate panel will publicly vet Mary Jo White Tuesday, the nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). New York City’s ban on big drinks goes into effect, and we expect to break the communist measure immediately if possible.
The corporate schedule includes several conferences and corporate events. The Barclays (NYSE: BCS) Healthcare Conference highlights presentations by Actavis (NYSE: ACT), Agilent Technologies (NYSE: A) and Laboratory Corporation of America (NYSE: LH). The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Consumer & Retail Conference highlights a presentation by Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT). Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) is holding a technology briefing on Software Defined Networking. The earnings schedule is headed up by Costco (Nasdaq: COST), Acadia Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ACAD), AcelRx Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ACRX), Amedisys (Nasdaq: AMED), Bridgepoint Education (NYSE: BPI) and China Techfaith Wireless Communications (Nasdaq: CNTF).
The monthly Retail Sales Report is gaining in importance as more companies stop reporting monthly sales data. This week’s data covering February is expected to show a 0.5% monthly increase, versus January’s 0.1% rise. Excluding autos, sales are expected to rise 0.6%, versus January’s 0.2% increase. Excluding autos and gasoline, sales are expected to rise 0.3%, versus last month’s 0.2% increase.
The latest Import and Export Prices data is due for 8:30 AM ET release. For February, export prices are expected 0.2% higher, versus the 0.3% increase in January. Import prices are seen increasing by 0.6%, versus the same increase in January.
New Business Trade data will come to the wire at 8:30 AM. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg see business inventories up by 0.5% in January, versus the 0.1% increase in December. Business sales were up 0.3% in December, so the increase in inventory was not in excess. The Inventory-to-Sales Ratio therefore improved on a monthly basis and measured 1.27. In the prior year period, it was better though, at 1.26.
Look for the weekly Petroleum Status Report at 10:30 AM ET. Last week’s report covering the period ending March 1 showed crude oil inventory increased by 3.8 million barrels. However, they remained well above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline stocks fell by 0.6 million barrels last week, but remained in the upper limit of the average range.
The regular mortgage activity data will also come to the early market Wednesday. Last week’s report covering the period ending March 1 showed the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Market Composite Index increased 14.8%. Both the Refinance Index and the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index rose by 15%, as mortgage rates backed up a bit.
In corporate news, the Barclays Healthcare Conference brings presentations by Medtronic (NYSE: MDT), Waters (NYSE: WAT) and others. The UBS (NYSE: UBS) Global Consumer Conference highlights a presentation by Urban Outfitters (Nasdaq: URBN). The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Consumer & Retail Conference brings info from Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF) and Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN). The Credit Suisse Global Services Conference highlights news from Visa (NYSE: V). A Delaware bankruptcy court considers a plan for A123 Systems, an electric car battery maker. The day’s earnings schedule highlights info from Addus Homecare (Nasdaq: ADUS), Alliance Healthcare Services (NYSE: AIQ), Antares Pharma (Nasdaq: ATRS), Coldwater Creek (Nasdaq: CWTR), Crexendo (NYSE: EXE) and Delcath Systems (Nasdaq: DCTH).
The Federal Reserve will release the details of its bank stress tests, or the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review, formally speaking. It examines the capital planning efforts and processes of major banks and financial institutions. Also, the House Financial Services Committee will examine “too big to fail” in a public hearing.
Thursday offers the Producer Price Index (PPI) at 8:30 AM ET. The measure of inflation at the producer front is expected to show a 0.6% increase for February, versus January’s 0.2% rise in prices. However, when excluding food and energy, the Core PPI is seen rising a lesser 0.2%, matching January’s rise.
Weekly Jobless Claims is also due at 8:30 AM, but will carry little weight considering its nearness to the Employment Situation Report - we showed unemployment to be 18%. Last week’s report covering the period ending March 2 showed claims fell by 7K, to 340K. This week, economists see an increase to 350K, based on Bloomberg data. The four-week moving average fell by 7K last week to a figure of 348,750.
The Current Account report for the fourth quarter of 2012 is expected to show a deficit of $111.9 billion, versus last quarter’s $107.5 billion.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index is up at 9:45 AM ET. The weekly measure of consumer views improved 0.4 points to -32.4 last week, the best point for it this year. This is certainly benefiting from new euphoria in the stock market, recovering real estate and the pushing aside of political concerns.
Look for the Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report from the EIA at 10:30 AM. Last week’s report covering the period ending March 1 showed working gas in storage declined by 146 Bcf. Stocks were 361 Bcf less than last year, but 269 Bcf above their five-year average for this time of year.
The corporate wire has presentations at the Barclays Healthcare Conference by Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) and Covidien (NYSE: COV). Inter-American Development Bank is having its annual meeting in Panama City, Panama. The earnings slate has news from Aeropostale (NYSE: ARO), Airmedia Group (Nasdaq: AMCN), Callon Petroleum (NYSE: CPE), Cornerstone Therapeutics (Nasdaq: CRTX) and more.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for February leads the wire Friday morning. Economists see the CPI up 0.5% this month, versus the absence of change in January. However, excluding food and energy prices, the Core CPI is expected to increase by 0.2%, less than last month’s 0.3% rise.
The New York Fed’s Empire State Manufacturing Index is expected to hold at about the same level this month. Economists see the index inching down to 10.0, from 10.4 last month.
New Treasury International Capital (TIC) data will reach the wire at 9:00 AM ET Friday. There’s no economists’ forecast here.
Industrial Production data will reach the wire at 9:00 AM for the month of February. Economists see production rising by 0.5%, after dropping by 0.1% last month. Manufacturing production is expected to increase by 0.3% this month, after dropping by 0.4% last month. Industrial capacity utilization is expected to improve to 79.4% this month, from 79.1% in January.
The Reuters/ University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index is up for release at 9:55 AM. Economists see the index holding steady this month, measuring 77.5, versus 77.6 at the end of last month. Again, gains in February were all on Washington D.C. simply getting out of the way of business.
A Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing on J.P. Morgan’s (NYSE: JPM) London whale trade.
On the corporate wire, Ford (NYSE: F) hosts its Ford University Conference Call. Fifth & Pacific Cos. (NYSE: FNP) has its Kate Spade New York 2013 Investor Day. The earnings schedule brings Brown Shoe (NYSE: BWS), Destination XL Group (Nasdaq: DXLG), Hibbett Sports (Nasdaq: HIBB), Zhongpin (Nasdaq: HOGS) and Zogenix (Nasdaq: ZGNX) to the wire.
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