Editor's Choice for the Week of December 21, 2009: GDP, Retail Sales, and More Healthcare Talk

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Last week we heard some encouraging economic words in the form of PPI, November housing starts and building permits, and CPI, followed by the Federal Reserve proclaiming that inflation hadn't yet reared its ugly head and at the end of the week, more good news with a healthy report on leading economic indicators.

While he spoke before those numbers were released, James Swanson, chief investment strategist for MFS Investment Management, said at the annual MFS Investment Outlook briefing that "the world economy, stoked by massive world-wide stimulus programs, is experiencing its most synchronized recovery in almost 40 years."

It now appears certain that 2010 will be a good year to die, as the House version of an estate tax extension failed to gain any traction in the Senate as the January 1 deadline approached under which the so-called death tax will go to zero for one year before reverting to pre-Bush Administration levels.

The House is not in session at all this week, but the full Senate may well debate healthcare reform legislation up to and including Christmas Eve. That debate might be affected by the Congressional Budget Office's latest correction to its estimate of the bill's effect on the budget deficit--it said December 20 that the correction "reduces the degree to which the legislation would lower federal deficits in the decade after 2019. On December 24, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider S. 1624, which would change the bankruptcy code to protect debtors who are also caregivers to family members.

On December 22, we hear about GDP for the third quarter along with corporate profits, along with existing home sales, and Redbook and ICSC-Goldman Sachs retail sales. Consumer sentiment and new home sales reports are released on December 23, and on December 24, when the markets close at 1:00 Eastern time, durable goods orders and first-time jobless claims.

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