The Week Ahead: Spring thaw, or late freeze?

April 26, 2014 

The steady din of economic data is amplified into a loud racket in the week ahead. It begins with the initial accounting of first-quarter GDP. Then the Federal Reserve passes judgment on the economy. Finally, on Friday, the April employment report is released. This trio will shape investor attitudes as stock prices hover near all-time highs.

The U.S. economy is growing. It grew throughout the polar vortex, as mountains of snow fell on a good part of the country in the first quarter. As the spring thaw has come, the economy has warmed up. Orders for durable goods such as cars, airplanes, furniture and appliances rose in March as Americans returned to spring spending habits.

The Federal Reserve's easy-money policy remains the lead instrument. The central bank continues maintaining zero percent interest rates even while it slowly stops buying bonds. Many had feared the Fed's exit strategy would produce economic dissonance leading to sharply higher interest rates. It hasn't happened. Instead, as the Fed leaders meet Wednesday, they are widely expected to continue their same refrain.

With the better weather, more people may be adding their voices to the chorus of the officially unemployed. Labor force participation has risen slightly this year as discouraged workers may be inspired by the slow but steady creation of jobs. April's employment report is unlikely to show a big jump in new jobs. But job growth has picked up its tempo from late last year.

There's never a shortage of noise in the stock market. The challenge for long-term investors is to tune out the static and hear the melody.

Tom Hudson, financial journalist, hosts "The Sunshine Economy" on WLRN-FM in Miami, where he is the vice president of news. He is the former co-anchor and managing editor of "Nightly Business Report" on public television. Follow him on Twitter HudsonsView.

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