March 15, 2010

Editor's Choice for Week of March 15, 2010: Financial Services Reform Bill, the FOMC, and the State of the Economy

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This week the big news begins early, as Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd finally floats his financial services reform bill on Monday, March 15. Bipartisan talks on the bill fell apart last week; it's expected that the bill will include establishment of a consumer protection agency within the Federal Reserve, and will call for the SEC to conduct a study on the fiduciary issue rather than impose a fiduciary standard on all advice givers. Meanwhile, the Committee for the Fiduciary Standard released a statement signed by multiple industry leaders, and a couple of Nobel prize winners, calling for establishment of a fiduciary standard in the Dodd legislation.

Overseas, European finance ministers are set to discuss the Greek debt crisis on Monday and Tuesday, and many investors will be watching the war of words between China and the U.S. on trade and currency issues.

Also on Monday, March 15, the Federal Reserve's report on industrial production and capacity utilization for February found that production rose 0.1% following January's 0.9% rise; the NAHB/Wells Fargo housing market index is also released on the 15th. Beginning Monday evening, the IPO of retirement advice software company Financial Engines, which was founded by Bill Sharpe, begins to be priced.

On Tuesday, March 16, the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee begins a one-day meeting: the FOMC is expected to leave the Federal funds target rate unchanged. Also Tuesday, we hear about building permits and housing starts for February. Treasury Secretary Geithner, Budget Director Orszagm, and chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers Romer testify before the House Appropriations Committee on the 2011 budget.

On Wednesday, March 17, another inflation-related development is released: producer prices for February; a much-anticipated report in some corners is also released on Wednesday on same-store sales of green bagels and beer; snake futures are expected to plummet on the same day.

On Thursday, March 18, the House Financial Services subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises holds a hearing on regulation of insurance holding companies; while there are reports on the Conference Board's leading economic indicators for February and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for February.

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