The look ahead: Chinese VP to talk trade with US; manufacturing and trade indicators due out

A visit to Washington by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, reports on the ailing European economy, and figures on US retail sales, homebuilding and jobless claims will be atop the economic news agenda in the coming week.

China-US talks

Xi will be in Washington Tuesday. Xi, who some experts think will become the next leader of China, is meeting with US President Barack Obama to discuss a broad range of economic and trade issues and regional and global developments.

The meeting comes a month after Obama singled out China while announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit, which will focus on investigating what he called unfair trading practices. “There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders,” Obama said during his State of the Union address.

In a White House statement on Wednesday, US Vice President Joseph Biden emphasised the importance of building a U.S.-China relationship that addresses practical issues important to both countries.

European economy

Four key European economic reports will be released next week as the region continues to battle a debt crisis and faces a possible recession.

  • The EU industrial production report for December 2011, which will show the health of manufacturing in the region, is scheduled for release Tuesday. January’s report showed that seasonally adjusted industrial production in 27 European nations in November 2011 fell by 0.1% compared with the month prior, and was down 0.2% from November of the previous year.

  • In a more comprehensive snapshot of the economy, the EU will release its gross domestic product “flash” report Wednesday. The report is a preliminary estimate and will provide results from the fourth quarter of 2011. The GDP increased by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2011 over the previous quarter.

  • The external trade report of the EU for December 2011 also is scheduled for release Wednesday. The report shows the level of exports and imports and can provide a gauge of the strength of the economy. Seasonally adjusted exports rose 2.8% in November 2011 compared with October 2011, while imports fell by 0.6%.

  • A comprehensive release of key economic indicators for the European area is slated for Thursday. This is a monthly report with detailed information on output, private consumption, investment, labour and other matters.

The releases will be available on the EU’s website.

US economy

A dose of data next week will also help economists and investors gauge the strength of the US economy.

  • On Tuesday, the US Census Bureau will release US retail sales figures for December and estimates for January. The bureau last month estimated that December retail sales were up 6.5% from December 2010. The December report is scheduled to be released at 8:30 a.m. EST. The January report is scheduled to be released at 8:45 a.m. EST on the Census website. Those reports could offer a glimpse into the monthly manufacturing and trade inventories report due out at 10 a.m. EST.

  • On Wednesday and Thursday, the housing picture will be top of mind for many economists and investors. There are signs things are picking up in the slumping US housing market. On Wednesday, the National Association of Home Builders will release the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. The index, which measures builder confidence, rose to 25 last month – its highest level since June 2007. The index will be released Wednesday at 10 a.m. EST at the NAHB website. The outlook will set the backdrop for Thursday’s report on US housing starts. Housing starts in December 2011 were up 24.9% compared with December 2010, the US Census Bureau reported last month. January figures are due out Thursday at 8:30 a.m. EST on the Census Bureau website.

  • The US Department of Labor’s weekly jobless claims report will also get some attention, after the department reported last week that the nation’s unemployment rate had dropped to a three-year low – news that boosted Wall Street. That same unemployment report indicated a drop in the number of people actively looking for jobs. The jobless claims report will be released at 8:30 a.m. EST Thursday at the Labor Department’s website.

  • Disclosures about risks and uncertainties and the liquidation basis of accounting will be discussed in a FASB Board meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. EST Wednesday. The board will discuss its previous tentative decisions about when and how an entity should apply the liquidation basis of accounting. Projects on accounting for leases and insurance contracts will be the focus of a FASB education session later the same morning. No decisions are made at education sessions. Webcasts of both meetings are available.

  • In Toronto on Friday, a public round-table meeting will be held on FASB’s exposure draft on investment companies and the IASB’s draft on investment entities. An audio webcast is available.