Friday, December 21, 2012

The Week Ahead: Christmas Week

Christmas Week will have only four trading days, and one of those will see an early close. Even so, the  Merry Old Elf who sits in a drab basement room within a non-descript, vaguely offical-looking building grinding out economic data will keep up the good work, sliding three housing reports plus a few other goodies down the market's chimney, although after the Christmas feast.

The U.S. markets will be closed on Tuesday for Christmas Day, and will close at 2 p.m. Eastern on Monday, the day before Christmas.

Of the major forex money centers -- London, New York, Tokyo and Sydney -- only Tokyo will be operating all five days of the week, and even Tokyo will be slowing down with the approach of New Year's, Japan's biggest holiday.

Congress may return on Thursday for more work on a budget settlement. Or not. It's all up in the air at this point as the national stagecoach careens out of control toward the Fiscal Cliff.

New home sales will be released by the Realtors on Thursday at 10 a.m. Eastern. This is the smaller part of the housing market -- most sales are to someone other than the original owners -- but it's an important indicator of how much (or whether) the housing market is recovering.

On Tuesday, the S&P Case-Shiller home price index will provide a detailed look at housing prices in 20 metro areas across the U.S. Housing is the most local of commodities, and this report has the ability to reveal trends masked by the national numbers. Out at 9 a.m.

The third housing report is the pending home sales index, to be released by the Realtors on Friday at 10 a.m. It tracks transactions where contract has been signed but deal hasn't closed yet.

Leading indicators out this week (in descending order of importance):

The interest rate spread between 10-year Treasuries and the federal funds rate, reported continually during market hours.

The M2 money supply, moved to Friday 4:30 p.m. because of the holiday, from the Federal Reserve.

The S&P 500 index, reported continually during market hours.

Average weekly initial jobless claims, at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Other reports of interest:

Thursday: Consumer confidence from the Conference Board, at 10 a.m., and petroleum inventories at 11 a.m.

Friday: Chicago purchasing managers' index, at 9:45 a.m.

Trading calendar

By my rules, as of Monday I can trade January short vertical spreads, butterfly spreads, iron condors, and the short legs of calendar and diagonal spreads, as well as April single options and straddles. Of course, shares are good at any time.

Merry Christmas, and good trading!

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