Economy Week Ahead: Factories, GDP, Central Banks

Until a February setback, durable-goods orders had increased for nine straight months amid strong consumer demand and rising business investment; the March figure, due Monday, is expected to show a rebound.

Photo: Steven Senne/Associated Press

This week brings a full slate of economic data and central-bank meetings that are likely to show strong growth in the U.S. but uneven recoveries elsewhere around the globe.


U.S. durable-goods orders are expected to rebound in March after bad weather disrupted supply chains a month earlier. Until the February setback, orders for long-lasting manufactured goods had increased for nine straight months amid strong demand for consumer goods and rising business investment.


The Bank of Japan is expected to keep its monetary policy on hold at the end of a two-day meeting, after last month tweaking its easing program. The bank is also slated to release an outlook report on the economy and prices and show its forecast for the year ending in March 2024 for the first time.


The Federal Reserve is likely to hold interest rates and bond purchases steady at the conclusion of a two-day meeting. In his most recent comments, Chairman Jerome Powell said he expects output and job growth to accelerate in the months ahead, but also reiterated that the Fed plans to wait until the economy’s recovery is complete before it raises rates.


U.S. economic growth is expected to accelerate in the first quarter of 2021 as businesses and households continue their climb back from a pandemic-induced recession. The first official reading of gross domestic product for the year will likely benefit from big gains for consumer spending—helped along by stimulus checks, stronger hiring and vaccination campaigns—as well as rising business investment and a strong housing market.


China’s official survey of purchasing managers at factories is expected to fall back slightly in April from a three-month high of 51.9 in March, in line with forecasts for a slight deceleration in activity during the second quarter of the year. A semiconductor shortage last month also slowed down manufacturing of home appliances, smartphones and computers.

The first official estimate of first-quarter economic output in the eurozone is expected to show a recession, with a 0.8% decline in gross domestic product following a 0.7% decline in the final three months of 2020. That largely reflects continued restrictions on services activity in response to high rates of infection, but a recent pickup in vaccinations has persuaded many economists that growth will return in the current quarter.

U.S. consumer spending is expected to rebound in March after cold weather and snowstorms shut businesses and kept families indoors a month earlier. Separate data already suggest stimulus money, Covid-19 vaccinations and business reopenings have spurred a spring surge in household outlays, a sharp pullback in layoffs and a bounce in factory output.

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