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Greek Debt Deadline Looms: Coming Week


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- After a relatively slow week, the next five trading days will be a test of U.S. investor confidence as a Feb. 15 deadline looms over Greek debt talks.

The clock is ticking on negotiations for Greece, as eurozone officials have marked Feb. 15 as the cutoff point for an agreement on a second bailout deal. If the debt-ridden nation is unable to find 325 million euros ($428.6 million) of additional budget cuts by then, the country will face the distinct possibility of a disorderly default on March 20.

Economic data due out of Europe the same day likely will add to the tension. An initial estimate of euzozone economic performance is likely to show the region contracted 0.4% in the fourth quarter, according to Thomson Reuters, following 0.2% growth in the previous quarter. If the region continues to contract in the current quarter, it would formally signal a recession.

Meanwhile, retail sales reports and manufacturing data from the U.S. could keep investors confident in growth on the other side of the Atlantic.

On Valentine's Day morning, investors hope to see the Commerce Department report stronger retail sales for the month of January after sales disappointed in December.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters forecast sales expanded by 0.6% after rising just 0.1% in December, when heavy discounting and cheaper fuel prices knocked down the value of goods. Meanwhile, a Bureau of Labor report, also due out at 8:30 a.m. EST, is expected to show export prices fell 0.1% and import prices climbed 0.2%.

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Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will also get in on the action Valentine's Day when he appears before the Senate Finance Committee to present the president's budget for fiscal year 2013.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve is expected to report at 9:15 a.m. EST that industrial production continues to expand at a quickening pace. Economists expect production to have risen 0.6% in January, after climbing 0.4% the prior month. Industrial utilization is also expected to have improved, to 78.5% of capacity from 78.1% in December.

At 8:30 a.m. EST on Monday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is expected to show manufacturing in the region continues to improve as well. The Empire State Manufacturing Survey is expected to indicate conditions advanced 0.7 points to 14.2 in February. At 10 a.m. EST, the Housing Market Index from the National Association of Home Builders is forecast to rise to 26, after climbing to 25 last month, its highest level since June 2007.

In the afternoon, the Federal Open Market Committee will release the minutes of its last meeting, on Jan. 24-25. However, with the new efforts at transparency, the minutes are unlikely to reveal anything new.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke already announced in a press conference after the meeting last month that benchmark funds rate is expected to remain near zero through 2014. Nonetheless, Bernanke will follow up with a press conference at 9 a.m. EST Thursday morning.

The U.S. economic data bonanza continues Thursday with reports on housing starts, initial jobless claims and producer prices at 8:30 a.m. EST. The Commerce Department is expected to report that housing starts climbed 2% to a 670,000 annual rate after dropping 4.1% in December, while initial jobless claims are expected to spike to 365,000 after falling to 358,000 last week.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve is expected to report that its business index jumped to 8.5 in February after increasing to a three-month high of 7.3 last month, according to Thomson Reuters.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will close out the week's economic data at 8:30 a.m. EST Friday with a report on consumer prices. The consumer price index is expected to climb 0.3% after holding flat the prior month.
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