As we begin the New Year and the markets look for a January Effect (see Ben Warwick's explanation of this phenomenon here: after two weeks of shortened trading, both Houses of Congress reconvene on January 5; one of the first orders of business that is likely to take weeks is reconciling the House and Senate versions of healthcare reform legislation. Congressional Democratic leaders have said they wanted a final bill to emerge from conference by the time of President Obama's State of the Union address in late January (though there are indications that that deadline won't be met).
The balance of the economic reports during the last two weeks has been positive, led last week by encouraging numbers on healthy retail sales, such as the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs index and a decline in the weekly number of Americans filing unemployment claims for the first time.
This week we learn more about retail sales--with the release January 5 of the ICSC-Goldman and Redbook sales indexes, and on January 7 of chain store sales for the holiday season--and unemployment, with the release of first-time jobless claims on the same day and December jobs picture on January 8.
Among several year-end remarks of interest, Ben Bernanke, in a speech January 3, laid the blame for the recession on lax regulation, not low interest rates: minutes of the Fed Open Market Committee's mid-December meeting will be released on January 6.