The Week Ahead: A Bumpy Ride in Store

We have moved another five trading days toward the end of 2012, and have only 10 left until we ring in 2013 -- yet all of the major stock market indices were essentially unchanged for the past week, and were fractionally in the red. Among the three, the worst offender was the Nasdaq Composite, which dipped a modest 0.3%. As had been expected, the "fiscal cliff" -- that slow boiling pot I discussed last week -- has indeed started to roll as we've neared the end of December. Despite rounds of talks, thus far there has been little movement in striking a deal. With few economic releases or earnings announcements schedule for the first half of the coming week, fiscal-cliff conversations -- or lack thereof -- will once again take center stage and make for a bumpy few days. 

Quickly recapping the past week, the flow of economic data was light, but some items did raise eyebrows. First, while auto production rose in November, we saw retail sales for that month, excluding autos. That reads as a negative, but we have to remember that gasoline prices at the pump have been falling over the last 12 weeks, and stood at $3.35 per gallon on average last week, according to the Energy Information Administration. The drop accounts for more favorable underlying retail sales data. Sifting through these same numbers also confirms data from Comscore and Nielsen that says online shopping grew significantly in late November vs. the prior year....650 more words left in this article. To read them, just click below and try Real Money FREE for 14 days.

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