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RISMEDIA, June 26, 2007?(MarketWatch)?Economic data to be released this week will be a microcosm of recent trends, and therefore an important opportunity to test the current optimism that the economy has picked itself off the floor after a weak first quarter, analysts said.

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In the first three months of the year, gross domestic product slowed to a crawl.

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First-quarter GDP will probably be revised up to a 0.8% annualized growth rate from the previous estimate of 0.6%. The revision will be announced on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

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Housing data as weak in the first quarter, which was not much of a surprise. But economists grew concerned with hints that businesses were becoming cautious and cutting their spending.

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Fortunately, business spending has turned around in the last two months, fueling optimism about the outlook.

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For the second quarter, growth is expected to snap back to 3.3%.

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Economists will be watching closely to see if this is a “sustained improvement in growth or whether it is an aberration,” said Tim McGee, chief economist at US Trust Corp.

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Housing data

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The week will get underway with the housing data, which are expected to remain downbeat.

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“The summer is going to be a season of discontent with respect to housing activity,” said Michael Gregory, senior economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns.

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Existing home sales are expected to fall to a 5.90 million seasonally adjusted annual rate in May from 5.99 million in April, as a result of a 3.2% drop in the pending home sales index last month. The data will be released by the National Association of Realtors on Monday at 10 a.m. Eastern. Existing home sales fell 2.6% in April. Inventory jumped to an 8.4 month supply in April, the largest in 15 years.

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New home sales are expected to fall 4.2% to a 940,000 seasonally adjusted annual pace, after soaring 16% in the previous month, according to the MarketWatch survey of economists. The median sales prices fell 10.9% in April, the biggest drip since 1970.

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The Commerce Department will release the data on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Eastern.

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Durable goods data

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After the housing data will come the May data for durable goods orders, the crucial report on business spending.

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Durable goods orders are expected to fall after two straight monthly gains, due in large part to lower orders from Boeing Co.

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Durable goods orders are expected to fall 1.8% in May after a 0.8% gain in April.

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Excluding transportation, orders are expected to inch higher.

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“This is consistent with recovering business capital spending, but not booming spending,” said Gregory.

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“Things have stopped looking quite as bouncy,” McGee agreed.

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The Commerce Department will release December durable-goods data Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.

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Consumer confidence, spending data

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Also this week, both consumer confidence surveys will be released.

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The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index, due out on Tuesday, is expected to fall to about 105 in June from 108 in May, economists say.

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The University of Michigan sentiment survey, due on Friday, is expected to rise slightly to 84 from mid-month levels of 83.7, the lowest level since last August.

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The dip in confidence is not expected to translate into weaker spending, although consumers have tightened their belts over the past few months. May data on consumer spending should show a 0.7% gain. Income gains were probably healthy at 0.6%.

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The income and spending numbers will be released Friday.

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The report will include the Fed’s favorite measure on inflation, the core index of the personal consumption expenditure index. Core inflation probably rose 0.2% again, which would lower the year-over-year gain to 1.9%, into the Fed’s semi-official comfort zone.

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Greg Robb is a senior reporter for MarketWatch in Washington.

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