Friday's Numbers: Already Thinking About the Fed

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Friday looks like a dead day for important, or even marginally interesting, economic indicators, so why not look ahead to the

Federal Reserve

's Feb. 4 meeting.

After all,

Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan

earlier this week expressed concerns about rising wages, which could spur inflation. But the worrisome words failed to previal: Overall, the mercurial one was upbeat about the state of the economy, and added that worries about job security may keep a lid on wages.

So what does that mean for short-term interest rates? No change, says Ray Worseck, chief economist at

A.G. Edwards

in St. Louis. "Comments from people in the Fed in recent weeks have been about inflation and wage increases," he says. "Pressures on wages have been rising very gradually but not to the point where you would start to see in it in the CPI numbers and that's what the Fed is going to pay attention to."

Thursday's numbers included initial claims for state unemployment insurance, which climbed 34,000 to 355,000 for the week ended Jan. 18. The four-week moving average rose 2,750 to 353,750. The increase was bigger than expected, but Worseck notes that the report is a "minor" player in the world of economic indicators.

In addition, Thursday brought with it news that U.S. import prices increased 0.1% in December. Export prices, meanwhile, were unchanged in December.

Friday's numbers:

Federal Reserve Bank Speeches

(2:30 PM EST): Presidents Thomas Hoenig, Jerry Jordan, Thomas Melzer and Michael Moskow of the Kansas City, Cleveland, St. Louis and Chicago Federal Reserve Banks, respectively, will speak at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. The topic: Money and Central Banking in the 21st Century.

Treasury Department Auction

(2:30 PM EST): Treasury will announce the 52-week bill auction. Look for it to remain unchanged at $19.25 billion.

By Erle Norton