In this series, we'll explore the data announcements and events that may affect the performance of bank stocks during the upcoming week.
This past week was a light one in terms of new economic data for investors to rely on -- and the coming week looks to be only slightly busier. But as Foolish investors, keeping track of the weekly events is important so you can anticipate any complications or opportunities your investments may face. Let's look at what's on tap for the coming week.
- NFIB Small Business Optimism Index: A monthly survey of small-business owners, the NFIB index provides investors with a glimpse of the owners' outlooks for not only their businesses, but also the economy. With items such as current and future hiring plans, anticipated sales and inventory levels, and an outlook on the economy, the survey answers can provide a real-time look at how business owners are planning ahead. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) was focusing on small-business lending earlier in the year, so this information can be highly useful for it and other banks to determine whether there is potential for new lending.
- MBA purchase applications: Once again, mortgage rates remained flat last week, so the small rise in new applications for mortgages wasn't a surprise, but it does (most likely) help Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), the top mortgage originators in the United States. The 0.7% increase in new applications for home purchases boosted the overall applications activity, which rose 0.2%. Investors should continue to watch this weekly report for signs that buyers are returning to the market following the brief rise in interest rates earlier in the summer.
- Jobless claims: Last week's report brought some mixed information to the market -- on one hand there was a small increase in the number of new applications for unemployment benefits, but on the other, the four-week rolling average of jobless claims fell to 335,500, a low not seen since 2007. Investors should watch this weekly report, since a stable labor market is needed to increase consumer spending, which is the largest factor for the country's GDP and also a huge factor for banks with large credit card operations, such as Citigroup.
- Housing Market Index: From the National Association of Home Builders, this index provides a look into the industry and their outlook for the market based on present sales of new homes, sales of new homes expected in the next six months, and traffic of prospective buyers in new homes. This information will be important for the banks that provide lending to both the construction firms and the prospective home buyers.
- Housing starts: This data provides a huge indicator of the housing market's health: demand for new homes. And with a rise in demand for new homes comes the need for new home loans -- and that's where the banks come in.
- Consumer Sentiment: Since consumer spending is such a big catalyst for economic recovery, consumer sentiment is important to understand as an investor. Unless consumers feel confident in the current state of the economy, they are less likely to spend their discretionary funds on large purchases and may even scale back on everyday items.
Throughout the week
A few of prominent Federal Reserve members are giving speeches or talks on the current economic environment, monetary policy, and the financial crisis. Any nuggets of information gleaned from these talks could provide good insight into future Fed policy.
- Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart will give a speech on economic outlook to the Kiwanis Club in Atlanta.
- St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard will give a speech on challenges with monetary policy in Paducah, Ky.
Though the coming week provides plenty of food for thought, don't get caught up in trying to follow each and every tidbit. As Foolish long-term investors, this current market environment can be tough to navigate, but be sure to keep your focus on the bigger picture. And as always, log on to Fool.com for more coverage of these events and announcements.