After the buildup and letdown over Friday's job numbers, Fed watchers took the day off Monday to retrench for a series of upcoming reports that might offer some clues as to what the

Federal Open Market Committee

will do at its upcoming meeting on February 4 and 5.

Starting with the Tuesday's



December Retail Sales

announcements, practitioners of the "dismal science" will watch closely for any signs of unexpected growth or runaway inflation that would force the Fed to raise interest rates.

While most economists are expecting Greenspan and company to sit tight at the next meeting, the prospects for a rate hike in the coming months have grown. Alan D. Levenson, a money market economist at

UBS Securities

, anticipates the Fed will boost interest rates by a quarter point in the spring or summer.

Consequently, Levenson believes the benchmark thirty-year T-bill will jump from 6.92% to 7.3% by the third quarter of 1997 as signs of stronger growth intensify.

In separate news, what's good for the country is not necessarily good for



As the economy continues to hum along, domestic car sales declined further--slipping 3.4% during the first ten days of January, according to

CNW Marketing/Research


Even trucks, which have been the hottest-selling segment for domestic manufacturers, dropped 1.7%.

Overall, the number of domestic cars sold was 90,773, down from 94,001 for the same period a year earlier.

In what many superstitious analysts consider to be a bullish economic indicator, the NFC team is favored to win the Super Bowl. The

Green Bay Packers

opened as a 13 1/2 point favorites over the

New England Patriots

. According to Robert Stovall, head of

Stovall/Twenty-First Advisers

, when a team from the old NFL or the NFC wins the Super Bowl, the market tends to have an up year.

Tuesday's numbers:

Consumer Price Index

(8:30 AM EST): The December reading of the CPI is expected to be up 0.3%. The core, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, should gain 0.2%. November figures were up 0.3% and 0.2% respectively.

Retail Sales

(8:30 AM EST): Closing the 1996 calendar year, the December report should give a clearer indication of how painful--or gleeful--the Christmas season was for the nation's retailers. Sales are expected to have risen 0.6% in December versus a 0.4% increase in November.

LJR Redbook

(2:55 PM EST): The first look at consumer whims for 1997 will get some attention in the afternoon because analysts are divided over the state of retail sales strength. The industry has its

National Retail Federation Convention

this week in New York.

Treasury Announcement

(2:30 PM EST): The Treasury will tell the investing public when a chestful of three- and six-month T-bills will go on the auction block.

Greenspan Speech

(5:30 AM EST): The Fed Chairman will receive an honorary degree at a Belgian university and give a speech entitled "Central Banking and Global Finance."

By Avi Stieglitz