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Thoughts turn to economic growth figures.
CommSec Chief Economist Craig James previews the economic data scheduled for the week ahead including construction work done, business investment and the CoreLogic Home Prices report. 
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Australia: Thoughts turn to economic growth figures
• In the coming week there are a number of indicators that will help formulate views on economic growth in the December quarter. Construction work done data is released on Wednesday with business investment figures to be released on Thursday.
• But the week kicks off on Tuesday when the regular weekly reading on consumer confidence is published by ANZ and Roy Morgan. Confidence levels have been a bit fluky on a week-to-week basis, but readings are still above ‘normal’ or longer-term averages.
• On Wednesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) releases the “Construction Work Done” estimates for the December quarter. The figures on home building activity are most important as they shine a light on the size of the “dwelling investment” component of gross domestic product (GDP or the economic growth measure).
• Construction work done fell by 2.8 per cent in real (inflation-adjusted) terms in the September quarter with residential building down 1 per cent.
• On Thursday, the ABS issues the publication “Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure” for the December quarter. In the September quarter spending on buildings and equipment fell by 0.5 per cent. But the report also includes estimates of future investment and the upgrade in the September quarter was the biggest in 19 years.
• Also on Thursday, the ABS issues more detailed estimates on the job market including regional and demographic estimates.
• And the Reserve Bank releases its “Private Sector Credit” data on Thursday (a measure of loans outstanding). Annual credit growth fell to a near 5-year low of 4.3 per cent in December.
• On Friday, there are two survey measures of activity in the manufacturing sector – from Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Industry Group.
• Also on Friday, CoreLogic releases its comprehensive estimates of home prices for February. In January, the CoreLogic Home Value Index of national home prices fell by 1.0 per cent to be down 5.6 per cent over the year.
Overseas: Key testimony on the US economy
• US economic growth data and testimony by the Federal Reserve chair are the two key events in the coming week.
• The week begins on Monday in the US when the Chicago Federal Reserve national activity index is released with the Dallas Fed manufacturing index and wholesale inventories data.
• On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, testifies on monetary policy and the economy to the Senate Banking Committee. The follow-up appearance before the House Financial Services Committee is on Wednesday. The Fed chair will give his latest assessment on jobs and inflation and may provide a few words on whether the flat yield curve is still of consequence in the current environment.
• In economic data on Tuesday, data on housing starts will be released with consumer confidence. Both the FHFA and S&P/Case Shiller home price measures are also released.
• On Wednesday in the US, data on factory orders and pending home sales are scheduled with the regular weekly gauge of mortgage applications.
• On Thursday in the US the delayed economic growth data for the December quarter is expected. Economists believe the US economy expanded at a 2.6 per cent annual pace in the quarter, down from 3.4 per cent in the September quarter.
• Also on Thursday, the US goods trade balance for January is issued with the Chicago purchasing managers index, wholesale inventories and the weekly data on new claims for unemployment insurance (jobless claims).
• On Friday in the US a plethora of economic data is set down for release. Included is personal income, the ISM manufacturing gauge, new auto sales figures and the February reading on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan. The personal income release includes a key inflation reading. The personal consumption deflator is the preferred inflation measure of the Federal Reserve. Also the ISM manufacturing gauge is seen little-changed from January’s reading of 56.6.
• In China on Thursday the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) releases its survey results on activity covering manufacturing and services sectors. And the results of the Caixin private sector survey of manufacturing purchasing managers is released on Friday. Both surveys have manufacturing gauges below 50 – suggesting weakening activity. But the NBS services gauge stands at a still healthy reading of 54.7.
Financial markets
• The Australian corporate reporting season winds down in the coming week. Major companies expected to release earnings results include:
• On Monday: Boral, BlueScope Steel; LendLease; QBE Insurance;
• On Tuesday: Caltex; Estia Health; Spark Infrastructure.
• On Wednesday: Bellamy’s; OZ Minerals; Rio Tinto; SEEK.
• On Thursday: Harvey Norman; Adelaide Brighton; Ramsay Health Care.
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