- December 11 and 12, 2012: The Fed meets. The Fed is not likely to overreact to the improvement in third-quarter GDP, so expect it to maintain its current emphasis on low interest rates. Under the circumstances, the most positive outcome of this meeting would be a business-as-usual type of report, with no new cautions about the economy or the financial system.
- December 20, 2012: Third estimate of third-quarter GDP. Another upward revision is probably too much to hope for, but simply confirming the latest estimate of the third quarter's improvement would be a positive development.
- December 7, 2012 and January 4, 2013: Employment reports. There was some controversy about the positive employment report that came out just before the election, so it will be especially interesting to see if decent job growth can be sustained. The wild card, though, is that these will be the first monthly employment reports impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
- January 30, 2013: First estimate of fourth-quarter GDP. If the third-quarter estimate proves to be real, then it's a question of what the economy does next. Will it improve on that 2.7 percent growth rate in the fourth quarter -- or slip back down yet again?
- Ongoing: The fiscal cliff negotiations. Both sides may feel compelled to demonstrate some brinkmanship for political purposes, so don't be surprised if these negotiations go right up to the January 1 deadline -- or beyond. Once a deal is announced, watch the reaction of the stock and bond markets to see how credible investors consider the solution to be.
Higher interest rates on savings accounts and other deposits are most likely to come at the end of a long chain of events. But if the economy builds some momentum now, it just might make higher bank rates possible by the end of 2013.