THE WEEK AHEAD

Next week brings the final key pieces of the data puzzle before the New Year, but Australian eyes will be on the banks as three hold their AGMs.

The week ahead brings one last hurrah for economic indicators in 2011 before the lights go out for the Christmas period.

In local news, the Reserve Bank of Australia will release its quarterly bulletin for December, while trade balance data is also due. Offshore, the US Federal Reserve will consider interest rates at its December board meeting, while retail sales data and business inventory figures will be released.

In corporate news, three of Australia’s big four banks will face shareholders at annual general meetings. ANZ Banking Group, Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank will all meet at an interesting time for the major lenders.

Elsewhere, Reserve Bank of Australia deputy governor Ric Bettellino will speak at a corporate function, while the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) releases its monthly oil market report.

RBA

On Wednesday, RBA deputy governor Ric Battellino will speak at the Australasian Finance & Banking Conference in Sydney.

Investors will look for any reflection on the central bank’s move last week to cut interest rates by 25 basis points for the second consecutive month. The official cash rate now sits at 4.25 per cent.

Thursday sees the RBA release its December quarter bulletin, which will be picked apart for any insight into what the bank’s next move may be on rates. Weaker-than-expected employment data this week has led some analysts to suggest that another cut to rates may be somewhere around the corner.

Local news

The local calendar has a full week as the Australia Bureau of Statistics releases its last key indicators for the year. On Monday, October trade balance data is due from the ABS, along with housing finance figures for the month.

The trade data is tipped to reveal a surplus of around $2 billion, while analysts expect the number of loans rose by 1 per cent in October, with the value of those falling by 2 per cent.

Tuesday sees the ABS release September building approvals data and September quarter housing starts figures. Economists are expecting new home building to have fallen 2 per cent in the quarter.

Lending finance data for October is also on tap, along with NAB’s business conditions and business confidence surveys for November and the Housing Industry Association’s third quarter housing affordability index.

Thursday brings new car sales figures for November from the ABS, as well as national accounts figures for September. Car sales are tipped to have eased by around 3 per cent for the month.

Elsewhere, the Melbourne Institute’s inflation expectation index and unemployment expectation index for December will be released.

Corporate

The week in corporate news is dominated by annual general meetings held by major Australian lenders.

Investors will watch intently for any comments on the outlook given the continuing European debt crisis and falling local interest rates.

On Wednesday, Westpac Banking Corporation will hold its AGM, while Thursday sees National Australia Bank and Orica meet their respective shareholders.

ANZ Banking Group wraps up the week when it holds its AGM on Friday.

Offshore

Monday sees the release of US Treasury budget data in what is a quiet day data-wise.

On Tuesday, the US Federal Reserve will consider interest rate levels at its December board meeting. Analysts are expecting no change in the level of rates.

Retail sales data for November, IBD/TIPP economic optimism figures for November and business inventories figures for October are also due. Analysts are tipping sales to have lifted 0.5 per cent in November.

In the United Kingdom, retail price index data for November will be released, along with consumer price index figures for the month. November housing price balance figures from RICS and the DCLG house price index for October are also expected.

In Europe, ZEW economic sentiment data for December is on tap.

Elsewhere, OPEC will release its monthly oil market report.

Wednesday brings import and export price data for November in the US, as well as the weekly Energy Information Association petroleum status report.

Meanwhile, quarterly ILO unemployment rate figures are due in the UK, along with claimant count data for November and average earnings data for October.

EU industrial production data for October will also be released.

US jobless claims data is set for release on Thursday, along with the November producer price index. The index is expected to show a 0.2 per cent increase in prices for the month.

The New York Empire State manufacturing survey for December is also due for publication along with the November industrial production data. Economists are expecting the figures to show a 0.2 per cent lift in production.

To round off a big day in America, US Treasury international capital data for October is expected to be released, as well as the Philadelphia Federal Reserve survey for December.

In the EU, the December purchasing manager's index for services and for manufacturing will be released, alongside third quarter employment change figures and the November consumer price index.

November retail sales for November are also expected, along with the CBI industrial trends survey for December.

On Friday, US inflation data wraps up a busy week, with the consumer price index for November due to be released. Analysts are tipping core prices to be 2.1 per cent stronger compared to one year ago.

Elsewhere, EU trade balance data is set for publication.

Wrapping up

Rounding off the week, Monday brings a speech from European Council president Herman Van Rompuy.

On Tuesday, federal energy minister Martin Ferguson will speak at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia event in Melbourne. He will also address an American Chamber of Commerce function in Melbourne later that day.

Friday sees Chicago Federal Reserve president Charles Evans speak in the US, along with Dallas Federal Reserve president Richard Fisher.