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The Week Ahead: March 3-9, 2014

21:37PM Mar 02, 2014

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Ukraine & Russia | Obama's FY 2015 budget proposals | Nominations

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

UPDATE: Inclement weather forces changes in Monday's congressional schedule. Due to inclement weather conditions affecting travel, neither chamber will hold votes Monday. The Senate had been on tap to consider the nomination of Debo Adegbile to be assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Cloture motions are also pending on the nominations of four US district judge nominees and for Rose Eilene Gottemoeller to be undersecretary of State for arms control and international security. Cloture votes scheduled for Monday have been delayed to Tuesday. In the House, Monday’s votes have been postponed, with the first votes of the week now scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET Tuesday. A Rules Committee meeting has also been postponed.

Before the Ukraine crisis and Russian President Putin's aggressive steps, the week ahead's key topic was going to be President Obama's proposed spending plan for Fiscal 2015, to be unveiled Tuesday. Both the House and Senate Budget committees have set hearings for Wednesday to pore over its details. But look for lawmakers from both political parties to focus on Ukraine, in an effort to try to find the right policy response for the United States and working with allies.

Regarding Ukraine, the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday will convene a hearing to examine the recent events in Ukraine and the next steps forward for US foreign policy in the region.

Israel focus. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and other lawmakers are slated to meet Monday at the Capitol with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Earlier in the day, Netanyahu is to meet with President Obama at the White House. The agenda includes progress in talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The Senate will consider competing bills to combat military sexual assault.

House Republicans, after pulling action last week on a measure to address skyrocketing flood-insurance premiums, think they have resolved differences to proceed with a revision on Wednesday geared toward attracting some Democratic support. An already-passed Senate bill that would put a halt to many of those reforms for four years has been blocked by House GOP leaders, who say that goes too far. But the issue has become a midterm-election topic.

The House GOP focus on the Affordable Care Act continues, with the Rules Committee scheduling a Tuesday hearing to set floor action on a bill to eliminate the individual-mandate tax penalty under Obamacare.

On the hearing front, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), will testify Wednesday before both the Senate and House Budget committees on the White House spending plan.

CFTC nominations. On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Timothy Massad, who previously oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program at the Treasury Department, to be the next head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The committee will also consider Sharon Bowen and Christopher Giancarlo to be commissioners at the CFTC.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to consider whether to empower states to tax online purchases. The Senate passed an online-sales-tax bill last year, and Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has said he would consider legislation as long as it meets certain conditions.

Other nominations. The Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday will consider the nominations of Lael Brainard, Stanley Fischer, and Jerome Powell to serve on the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors. The panel also will consider nominees for Housing and Urban Development assistant secretary and a member of the National Credit Union Administration Board. The Senate is also scheduled to vote Monday on the nomination of Debo Adegbile as assistant attorney general for civil rights. Under the new confirmation rules approved in November, Republicans can no longer require 60 votes to confirm a nominee.

The Senate will likely consider a bipartisan child-care development block grant bill that is expected to pass.

On the budget front, as President Obama and the White House finally unveil their budget framework for government spending on Tuesday (more details March 11), the House and Senate are taking different approaches on whether to do their own detailed budget plans for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 – FY 2015. Last week, Boehner said House Republicans under Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would write a balanced-budget plan of their own, and that the package would be brought to the floor for a vote. A day later, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced the upper chamber would not be doing its own version.

Of note, the two-year budget plan deal forged by Murray and Ryan and passed in December already sets spending levels, with top-line spending capped in Fiscal 2015 at $1.014 trillion.

A House Financial Services subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday on data security and protecting financial information. And the Fed will release its Beige Book, which provides a regional overview of economic conditions in the United States, on Wednesday.

Energy-efficiency legislation will come to the House floor this week. The House Rules Committee has set a hearing for Tuesday to set floor action on a bill, packaged with other legislative proposals aimed at boosting energy savings. Those include a measure to promote energy efficiency in federal agencies, and one to increase efficiency standards for grid-enabled water heaters. The legislation is expected to pass. It remains to be seen, however, whether House passage of energy-conservation legislation will spur Senate action.

Crude-by-rail also gets another focus, this time with a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security. The Thursday hearing will feature testimony from representatives of the Federal Railroad Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the American Petroleum Institute, and other interest groups and regulatory agencies with a stake in passenger and freight rail safety.

House Republicans will target Obama administration environmental regulations this week via legislation that would prevent the Interior Department from toughening regulation of mountaintop-removal coal mining projects. The House may also consider legislation that would block EPA's plans to set carbon emissions standards for power plants. The bill's 81 cosponsors are mostly Republicans, but seven Democrats have also signed on.

Drug-labeling issues another focus this week. The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday will hold a hearing about generic-drug labeling. The Food and Drug Administration's proposed changes have come under fire from generic-drug companies that prefer keeping generic-drug labels the same as their brand-name counterparts. The companies argue that consumers won't know that they're the same drug if the labels look different, and they will be open to more lawsuits if consumers claim they weren't sufficiently warned of risks. But others note that allowing generic-drug companies to update the safety information on the labels is seen as a big consumer protection, given that some 80 percent of drugs dispensed in the US are generics.

On the economic report front, Friday looms large for the markets as that will mark the next update on the US Employment situation along with updates on International Trade and Consumer Credit. Before that, Monday sees release of Personal Income and Outlays, PMI and ISM manufacturing data, and Construction Spending. Wednesday will bring the ADP private sector jobs data, PMI services figures, ISM non-manufacturing data and the Fed’s Beige Book. Thursday’s data includes the weekly jobless claims, Productivity and Costs and Factory Orders. There are also Fed speakers on tap, including Richmond Fed’s Lacker on Tuesday, Dallas Fed’s Fisher and San Francisco’s Williams on Wednesday, Atlanta Fed’s Lockhart on Thursday and New York Fed’s Dudley on Friday. Any foreign economic data out of China and Europe also could impact markets ahead of the US jobs update on Friday.

For agriculture, the focus will be on the administration’s budget information but also on the weekly update on export business and international trade figures on Friday morning. The trade situation with China will continue to be a focal point along with any other demand for US ag products.

Monday, March 3
President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
Markets; Some Latin American countries, including Argentina (through Tuesday) and Brazil, close their markets for Carnival.
ECB President Mario Draghi in Brussels speaks before the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament.
Economic reports: Factory Orders | Selected Interest Rates (Federal Reserve) | Motor Vehicle Sales | Personal Income & Outlays | PMI Mfg Index | ISM Mfg Mfg Index | Construction Spending
USDA reports: Export inspections (AMS) | Amber Waves Magazine (ERS)


Tuesday, March 4
President Obama's Fiscal 2015 budget proposal
is released.
Nominations: Senate Banking Committee holds confirmation hearings on Obama's nominees for the Federal Reserve Board: Stanley Fischer, Jerome Powell, and Lael Brainard.
Federal Reserve: Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President Jeffrey Lacker speaks in New York.
Mardi Gras celebrations take place in New Orleans and other cities.
Economic reports: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales
USDA reports: Dairy Products (NASS)

Wednesday, March 5
China's National People's Congress begins its two-week annual meeting.
Supreme Court hears a case, Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund, which could make it more difficult for shareholders to file class-action suits.
Federal Reserve: Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher speaks in Mexico City. San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams speaks on the economic outlook in Seattle.
Energy reports: Weekly Petroleum Status Report (EIA) | Weekly ethanol plant production (EIA).
Economic reports: Weekly Mortgage Rates (Freddie Mac) | ICI weekly money market mutual fund data Weekly mortgage applications (Labor Dept.) | ADP Employment Report | ISM Non-Mfg Index | Beige Book | MBA Purchase Applications
USDA reports: Broiler Hatchery (NASS) | National Dairy Products Sales Report (AMS) | Announcement of Class and Component Prices (AMS)


Thursday, March 6
Ukraine: EU's top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, meets with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Rome amid heightened tension over political upheaval in Ukraine.
ECB Governing Council meets in Frankfurt followed by a news conference and interest-rate announcement.
Bank of England announces its interest-rate decision following a two-day meeting.
Federal Reserve: New York Fed President William Dudley takes part in a discussion hosted by The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones in New York. Elsewhere, Philadelphia's Charles Plosser speaks in London, and Atlanta's Dennis Lockhart lectures at Georgetown University.
Transportation: Weekly Traffic of Major Railroads (Assn. Of American Railroads) | Grain Transportation Report (AMS).
Energy reports: Weekly US underground natural gas stocks (EIA)
Economic reports: Jobless Claims (Labor Dept.) | Productivity and Costs | Factory Orders
USDA reports: Export Sales (FAS) | Trout Production (NASS)


Friday, March 7
Federal Reserve: New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley speaks on the economy in New York.
Economic reports: International Trade | Employment | Consumer Credit
USDA reports: Peanut Prices (NASS) | Latest US Agricultural Trade Data (ERS)

Sunday, March 9
Daylight saving time begins in the US, Canada and Mexico, among other countries. Clocks move forward by one hour.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.