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All eyes on housing data, the Fed for market buzz

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Baring the unexpected, economic data and the Federal Reserve are expected to get the bulk of Wall Street's attention, starting on Tuesday.

The question for Wall Street is, "are we looking at ongoing weather-related data, or are we going to see incremental improvement?" asks Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

The Ukraine crisis is "something to keep our eyes on, in terms of trading, but maybe it comes off the trader screen for the next few days, as we have the Fed on Wednesday," JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade, said of the two-day policy session that starts Tuesday and culminates with a policy decision and Janet Yellen's first news conference as chair of the U.S. central bank.

"It's the first meeting with the new boss in place, so we may be able to stop thinking about geopolitics and worst-case scenarios," said Hogan of the market's recent and extended slide on global worries that included Ukraine and China's economic slowdown.

Reports scheduled for release before Tuesday's opening bell include the consumer price index, typically parsed by analysts and investors for any sign of inflation, along with housing starts and building permits, all for February.

"We haven't had a whiff of inflation, so the CPI isn't going to rattle any cages, but the 8:30 a.m. housing starts should get everyone's attention," said Hogan.

The report, along with one on mortgage applications on Wednesday and existing home sales on Thursday, should give investors a "if not different, a clearer view on the health of the housing sector," an important piece of the U.S. economy, Hogan said.

The bar for housing reports has been raised, "coming off the back of the ho-hum employment number and then the strong retail sales number; it makes the expectations there a little stronger than they had been," said Kinahan, referring to the addition of 175,000 jobs in February and separately, a 0.3 percent rise in retail sales last month.

(Read more: Home builders still cold on spring market)

The economic reports should begin to answer whether equity investors made the right call in writing off a slew of economic reports "as being adversely affected by the weather," said Hogan, who adds: "One of the first things you put off because of the weather is a house purchase and discretionary spending."

On Monday, stocks rallied, with the Dow rebounding from a five-day losing streak, as voting in Crimea passed without violence and after economic report had U.S. manufacturing output jumping the most in six months.

Wall Street "shifted into risk-off gear, and spent an entire week doing it, then we walk in, and industrial production is better than expected, so we had a good combination of worst-case scenario not coming to fruition," said Hogan of the start-of-the-week trade.

—By CNBC's Kate Gibson.

  • Patti Domm

    Patti Domm is CNBC Executive Editor, News, responsible for news coverage of the markets and economy.

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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  • JeeYeon Park is a writer for CNBC.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC

  • Rick Santelli joined CNBC Business News as an on-air editor in 1999, reporting live from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.

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