Just a slight suggestion that the Fed could begin to taper down its $85 billion per month quantitative easing program has kept investors on edge since June, when the subject was first broached by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.
It has long been established that even positive economic news sends stocks lower, given the possibility that too much good news could provoke the Fed to pull back from its accommodating policy positions.
At this point, with the unemployment rate at 7 percent, many are betting that the Fed will announce a policy shift on Wednesday afternoon.
Until then, investors will look at various reports.
Monday -- Markit Economics said the Eurozone's manufacturing purchasing managing index rose to 52.7 in December from 51.9 in November. The U.S. Labor Department said non-farm productivity rose at a 3 percent annual rate in the third quarter of the ever, including a 4.7 percent increase in output and a 1.7 percent increase in hours worked.
Tuesday -- The Office of National Statistics in Britain. Eurostat, which is he European Commission's data office, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are all set to release November's consumer price index reports.
Wednesday -- The Bank of England's meeting minutes from its meeting two weeks ago are due to be released. In the United States, the Census Bureau is due to release a monthly building starts report. The Fed's policy announcement is set for 2 p.m. Eastern Time. This is followed by a news conference that commences at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
Thursday -- Britain is due to release retail figures for November. U.S. weekly jobless benefit claims are due Thursday, as is a Conference Board report on the U.S. leading indicators for November. In another private report, the National Association of Realtors is due to release November existing home sales figures for November.
Friday -- The Office of National Statistics is scheduled to release a third quarter gross domestic product estimate. Statistics Canada releases its consumer price index for November and a monthly retail report. The U.S. Department of Commerce is scheduled to release its third and final estimate of the third quarter GDP.