Stock markets, which have gained ground for seven consecutive weeks, are open this week on a normal operating schedule ahead of the coming two holiday-shortened weeks. Market watchers will be focused on Friday’s Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) index to gauge if inflation is continuing its downward trend. The latest trends in the housing market will come into view as several indicators are released this week, including homebuilder confidence, housing startsbuilding permitsexisting home sales, and new home sales. The final Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for this year covering December will show how Americans are feeling about the economy. Several companies will report earnings this week, including Nike Inc.Accenture PLCFedEx Corp., Micron Technology Inc., and CarMax Inc.

PCE Reading Will Show Fed If Inflation Is Still Falling
The Federal Reserve appears to be signaling that it is finished for the moment with its rate hike campaign. Now, it’s time to see if prices will cooperate, as the December Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) index on Friday will show if inflation is continuing its downward trend. After the Fed indicated that it could cut interest rates by 75 basis points in 2024 as it attempts to guide the economy into a soft landing, officials will want to see continued progress on prices. Recent readings on inflation have been positive, with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) declining to 3.1% in November. The Fed’s preferred reading on inflation, the PCE, fell to its lowest levels since March 2021 for October when it dropped to 3%, but it’s still over the target inflation level of 2%. Another drop in the PCE could give Fed officials confidence about being on a path to enact those rate cuts.

Retail Rolls Into Big Week Ahead of Christmas Holiday
In the last full week before the Christmas holiday season, retailers look to be busy, as the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau showed retail sales rose 0.3% in November from October, shooting past expectations that sales would decline. Forecasts for the holiday shopping season have been mixed, as retailers like Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. have warned that sales may weaken for the quarter, though some analysts see holiday spending rising. Retail outlets have their opportunity to beat those projections this week, which features two of the busiest shopping days of the year, according to retail analysts Sensormatic Solutions. Known as “Super Saturday,” Dec. 23 is forecast as the second-busiest shopping day of the year, behind only Black Friday after Thanksgiving. Friday, Dec. 22 is forecast to be the fourth-busiest shopping day this year. Market watchers will also get a viewpoint on retail when Nike reports fiscal second-quarter earnings on Thursday, after the shoe maker posted better-than-expected profit, while slashing its inventory, for the prior quarter.