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May 16, 2013  Thu 1:16 AM CT

XHB: SEE CHART GET CHAIN FIND STRATEGIES
Initial jobless claims and housing data, both at 8:30 a.m. ET, are the main events on today's economic calendar.

Economists are forecasting that 330,000 Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, up slightly from 323,000 in the previous period. Lower readings would be bullish because that would indicate that fewer people lost their jobs.

The Commerce Department is expected to report that housing starts totaled 970,000 on an annualized basis, down from 1.036 million in March. Building permits are projected to have risen to 950,000 from 902,000, also on an annualized basis. Higher readings on either would be bullish.

The Labor Department also reports the consumer price index at 8:30 a.m. ET, but it's unlikely to affect sentiment because inflation hasn't been a major concern recently.

In addition, retailing giant Wal-Mart will release quarterly results before the opening bell.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve follows with its index of regional economic activity at 10 a.m. ET. Economists expect a reading of 2.5, up from 1.3 last month.

Weekly natural-gas inventories are the last data release, at 10:30 a.m. ET.
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