) -- Inflation will be in focus during Wednesday's trading session, with the latest consumer price index due for release early in the day.

Inflation on the consumer level is an important topic for investors, as debate rages over when it will be an appropriate time for the

Federal Reserve

to begin raising interest rates. As it stands, economists are expecting the consumer price index report, due for release at 8:30 a.m. EST, will show that inflation rose 0.2% in October after a 0.2% increase in September.

The core CPI number, which excludes food and energy, should rise 0.1% in October after a 0.2% increase the month prior, indicating that inflation has remained relatively contained.

On Tuesday, the Labor Department said its producer price index, which measures inflation on the producer level, rose 0.3% in October, slightly less than expected. The core PPI number dropped 0.6%, surprising analysts who had expected a 0.1% tick higher. It was the biggest drop for the core PPI since July 2006 and comes due to a 5.2% drop in light truck prices.

In addition to the CPI report, traders will also be greeted early Wednesday by the October read on housing starts and building permits, which should climb to 600,000 and 580,000 from 590,000 and 573,000 the month prior, respectively.

On the earnings front,

BJ's Wholesale

(BJ) - Get Report

will headline the early morning reports, with reports from

Chico's FAS

(CHS) - Get Report


Solarfun Power

( SOLF) also on tap.

After Wednesday's closing bell, several retailers will post quarterly results, including








( GYMB) and

Hot Topic

( HOTT).


(NTAP) - Get Report


(NTES) - Get Report

will also report earning late Wednesday.

Investors will also be focusing on the Energy Department's weekly inventory report, due at 10:30 a.m. EDT, especially with oil prices hovering near the $80-a-barrel level. Crude oil inventories are likely to have risen by 300,000 barrels last week, a


survey of analysts shows.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in New York


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