Uncle Sam’s Monthly Budget – On Monday at 2 p.m., the Treasury Department will release its monthly accounting. In June, the government posted its biggest budget surplus in five years – $116 billion. That huge surplus came thanks to what analysts called calendar quirks and a major dividend payment from Fannie Mae. In two of the last three months, the government has run a significant surplus. Year-to-date, the budget deficit sits at $510 billion. The CBO thinks for all of 2013, if federal taxes and spending do not change, the budget deficit will shrink to $642 billion – the smallest shortfall since 2008.
Housing Starts – Next Friday morning, expect the latest read on the state of housing. Data on housing starts will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET. This indicator reflects the commitment of builders to new construction, and once new homes are built there is a ripple effect that moves through the economy. New homes mean new furniture, new appliances, new electronics, etc. With mortgage rates rising from record lows in the last couple of months, it will be interesting to see if there has been any significant impact on the number of new homes builders are starting to build. On Wednesday, investors will also get the weekly report on mortgage applications.
Time Warner vs. CBS – How long will the blackout last? Assuming as of the writing of this note that CBS stays off the air over this weekend and 3 million viewers in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and other markets don’t get to see who wins golf’s final major of 2013 – right now Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are struggling, so golf fans may not be missing that much – then it could take a while before this feud gets settled. Analysts say the start of the NFL season then becomes the likely tipping point in this media battle. It may be worth noting that while this carriage battle simmered, Internet TV company Aereo announced this week that it will be expanding to Miami, Houston and Dallas in September. Aereo is currently available in Boston, Atlanta and New York.
What’s Next for Your Money? Last week, stocks hit record highs and the weekly winning streak for the Dow climbed to six straight weeks. Well, the streak is over. The Dow posted its worst week since June and traders are wondering what the dog days of August will bring to the markets. This week, there was record low volume, meaning there was very little trading done on Wall Street.
The Retail Detail – The latest read on retail sales will come on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. ET. This is an important piece of data because spending by the consumer accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy. This report will give both Wall Street and Main Street a good idea how the economy is dealing with all the headwinds – rising gas prices, climbing mortgage rates and things like the sequester.
Bonus: J.C. Penney for Your Thoughts – How much worse can things get for the storied department store chain? The stock and the company have been tanking – shares are at a 10-year low. In April, the company brought back the old CEO and fired then-CEO Ron Johnson, who JCP plucked from Apple’s retail business. The hope had been that Johnson, based on his experience at Apple, would be able to turn around the 111-year-old retailer. Well, Johnson didn’t have the right formula and now there is all sorts of fighting between an activist investor, Bill Ackman, and the board as to who should run the company. So keep an eye on JCP. Wall Street keeps downgrading the stock, shoppers keep staying away from the stores and that combo is not a good sign for the long-term prospects of this retailer.
Double Bonus – Keep an Eye Out for Shares of Priceline (PCLN) – Shares of the online travel company finished the week just $30 away from $1,000 a share. William Shatner congratulated the company on its surging stock price and added today via Twitter: “Wish I hadn’t sold my stock all those years ago.”