Futures Now

Will the US bounce back in Q2? Here comes a hint

Into the futures: Key economic data

How strong is the American economy right now? Some light will be shed on Tuesday, when the Census Bureau releases April's reading on durable goods orders.

"The durable goods report will be the first tangible indication if hopes for more robust economic growth in the second quarter are realistic," said Scott Nations, CIO of NationsShares. "Any month-over-month decline will be disappointing."

Because the durable goods report measures new orders for expensive manufactured products, it provides insight into how busy factories may become, thus making it a leading indicator for the economy. Excluding the noisier defense and aircraft orders, economists polled by Reuters are looking for a gain of 0.3 percent, well short of March's expectation-beating 2.2 percent gain.

Others are less optimistic.

"We expect durable goods to go down," said Robert Stein, deputy chief economist at First Trust Advisors and a master forecaster of durable goods. "Anytime you get a big surge like you did last March, you tend to see a little bit of retracement."

But Stein still sees the economy bouncing back after a particularly wintery winter.

"Our view is that it really was the harsh winter weather that held things down—nothing where you should take what happens in the first quarter and expand upon it to make a negative story," Stein told CNBC.com. "But we think the snapback is going to occur over a couple of quarters, not just over one quarter. I think we're basically due for 3 percent growth over the next couple of years."

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A customer talks to a sales associate in front of a row of Whirlpool washing and drying machines.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group, cautions against getting too excited about the economy—even if the durable goods number comes in strong.

"For every good manufacturing number, we have a soft housing number. For every strong durable goods number perhaps, there's a weak consumer confidence number. So it's still very much a mixed bag, the U.S. economy. It's more of the same more than anything else—closer to 2.5 percent growth. The economy is not breaking out to the upside in my opinion," Boockvar said.

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Either way, traders are sure to be watching durable goods orders, as well as Tuesday's Consumer Confidence Index reading, especially closely.

"The recent buoyancy in equity markets is based on the notion that the economic recovery is gaining steam, but not fast enough to cause an early Fed exit," said Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services. "Tuesday's durable goods and consumer confidence numbers will be important factors if this thesis remains valid."

Iuorio says the best-case scenario for stocks is a modest number that's neither too high nor too low, as this will indicate that the economy is growing, but not quickly enough for the Fed to become more hawkish ahead of schedule.

—By CNBC's Alex Rosenberg