Key economic events for the week of Jan. 16

Posted Jan. 15, 2012, at 8:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The shortened four-day week will see the release of key bits of data on manufacturing, housing and inflation. This all comes as a prelude to the next meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, Jan. 25-26.

The New York Fed’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey for January on Tuesday is expected to show a soft but noticeable improvement in the factory sector.

On Wednesday morning, the Federal Reserve’s industrial production data for December should help flesh out the details of recent economic growth. The manufacturing and mining sectors are projected to show an uptick in activity, while utility output is likely to have dropped slightly because of the milder-than-expected winter.

Later in the day, the NAHB-Wells Fargo housing market index should help analysts assess whether the outlook for housing is brightening. In the previous three months, the survey, which measures market conditions for the sales of new homes across the country, provided some reasons for optimism.

On Thursday, the Labor Department’s weekly report on claims for unemployment insurance could offer an indicator of the health of the labor market. A buoyant four-week streak on jobs came to an end Thursday when claims jumped back up to 399,000, which was higher than expected.

Markets also will be watching the Census Bureau’s Thursday morning release of housing starts data for December. The number of new single-family homes nosed upward in October and November, and if that trend turns out to have continued in December, it could mean the housing market is finally building steam.

The consumer price index for December also should garner a close look Thursday. Fed officials have said they’re taking notice of inflation trends. Oil prices have been creeping up in recent months, while food prices have been falling.

On Friday, the National Association of Realtors reports on sales of existing homes for December.

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