Economy Week Ahead: Industry, GDP, Housing

This week’s data will show how economies around the globe are faring at different stages of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.


In China, investment, industrial output and retail sales are expected to advance at a slower pace in April than March—partly because of the comparison to figures from a year earlier, when the world’s second-largest economy was slowly emerging from its coronavirus lockdown. Retail sales are expected to have risen 24.9% from a year earlier in April, according to a median forecast of 15 economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. Fixed-asset investment likely rose 19.2% in the first four months of the year, and industrial production, often considered a proxy for growth, is forecast to jump 9.1%.


In the first quarter of 2021, Japan’s economy likely contracted 1.2% from the previous quarter, according to economists surveyed by data provider Quick. Economists say private consumption weakened in the three months to March due to the government’s state of emergency in some major prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka.

U.S. housing starts rose to a nearly 15-year high in March, underscoring strong demand for homes amid low interest rates, millennials entering their prime homebuying years and a desire for more household space driven by the pandemic. Builders, however, have complained of rising lumber costs and labor-supply constraints, and economists are forecasting a small step back in April construction numbers.


U.S. jobless claims fell to a fresh pandemic low during the first full week of May. Another step down during the week ended May 15 would be a sign businesses are hiring new workers and holding on to the ones they have as the labor market steadily improves.


Surveys of purchasing managers are expected to record an acceleration in eurozone activity during May, underpinning expectations that the currency area’s economy will return to growth in the second quarter having endured a recession during the previous six months. However, similar surveys for the U.S. are expected to record a stronger expansion, with the growth gap widest for the services sector.

The median U.S. existing-home sales price in March rose to a record high, taking some steam out of the market at the start of the peak spring selling season. For April, economists say those rising prices and limited inventories of homes for sale could once again tamp down sales despite low mortgage rates and sky-high demand.

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