To understand inflation, we must first understand what the word means. By common economic definition, inflation is an increase in the price of a basket of goods and services that is representative of the economy as a whole. In other words, it is an upward movement in the average level of prices over a period of time. It is also the opposite of deflation, or falling prices. Neither inflation excess, nor deflation is a good thing.
Earnings season is the four times a year, celebrated several-week stretch from early January to early February, from early April to early May, from early July to early August, and from early October to early November in which the vast majority of the nation's corporations report their quarter's sales and earnings--hence the name earnings season.
Once a month, the Conference Board, a nongovernmental organization, issues its report on the Leading Economic Indicators, commonly called the Leading Indicators. The Leading Indicators are indicators in economics and finance used to forecast the future. Actually, this release is a three-part report, taking in the Leading Indicators, the Lagging Indicators, and the Coincident Indicators.
Several days into every month, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) issues its report on non-manufacturing activity nationwide for the prior month. This report is a reading of the health of the services sector.
The first business day of every month, the Institute for Supply Management, popularly known as the ISM, issues the closely watched ISM Manufacturing Survey. This survey tracks the health of the manufacturing sector. The survey is comprised of 400 member companies across 20 industry groups. The ISM Manufacturing Survey is the first report issued each month that describes how well or how poorly the economy has fared over the previous four weeks.
During the final week, or so, of a month, the U.S. Department of Commerce releases its report on orders for durable goods, or specifically new orders for manufactured durable goods. These are long-lived products, as the durable goods term suggests, that are often categorized to last three or more years. The order number is given in the aggregate, as well as excluding orders for transportation equipment (e.g., aircraft) and defense products.
During the second or third week of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the U.S. Labor Department, issues monthly data on the Producer Price Index (PPI) and the companion Consumer Price Index (CPI). These reports, which measure inflation at different points, are issued on separate days, often, but not always, within a day or two of one another.
At the midpoint of each month, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly announce residential construction statistics for the prior month. The report includes figures on housing starts, building permits, and housing completions. It is one of the more closely watched surveys issued monthly, as housing is seen as critical to sustaining any economic expansion.