Look for this week to end with a bang: We get first-look third quarter GDP numbers on Friday.

10/26/2010 2:16 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Two economic announcements this week have the power to move stocks. And right now the consensus among economists is moving toward a belief in better than projected numbers.

The big number comes on Friday, October 29, with the first estimate of third quarter GDP. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg project 2% growth from the third quarter of 2009. That would be a significant gain from the 1.7% annual growth rate in the second quarter.

That kind of increase in economic growth would be a confidence builder for investors at a time when so many are expecting growth to slump until the middle of 2011. I don’t think it would be enough to change the Federal Reserve’s decision on the need for a new program of quantitative easing to support economic growth by driving down medium- and long-term interest rates. For one thing, a 2% growth rate isn’t enough to significantly lower the number of unemployed. But I do think an increase to 2% would diminish remove worries about a double-dip recession.

The Bloomberg survey of economists also shows them projecting that the improved growth rate is coming from a pickup in consumer spending. Economists project that consumer spending grew by a 2.4% annual rate in the third quarter. The National Retail Federation has forecast that November- December sales will rise by 2.3 percent from sales during the same period in 2009. That would make 2010 the best holiday shopping season in four years.

Investors will get a preview of Friday’s third quarter GDP numbers on Wednesday, October 27 when the U.S. Department of Commerce reports durable goods orders. According to economists, durable goods orders climbed 2% in September. That would be the most in five months.

Take a look below the headline number to a subcategory, orders of business capital goods. This part of the durables number measures equipment that business is ordering to expand or modernize production. Orders in this category grew by 4.1% in August and economists are looking for a similar pickup in September.

Businesses don’t invest unless they think that the economy is revving up. They can be wrong, of course, but business investment is generally a reliable indicator of economic direction.

Positive numbers from GDP and durables would be a good reason for the current rally to continue into the fourth quarter of 2010.

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