Now the currencies market has minded its language, it’s time to get back to basics with a bout of data watching.

Janet Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, surprised no one by removing the word “patience” from the US central bank’s guidance on rates. But much of the rest of last week’s statement was seen as dovish, especially with reference to weaker inflation.

For a while at least, the received wisdom on the timing of the first post-crisis era US rate rise looks to depend more on numbers than words, with Tuesday’s retail sales data taking on added significance.

The Consumer Price Index for February is expected to rise but by just 0.2 per cent according to a Reuters poll, hardly the kind of reading to encourage the rate hawks.

The Fed joined a long list of central banks that are reacting to low inflation and either easing or postponing tightening,” said Michelle Meyer, of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s global economics team, who remained generally optimistic on the outlook for US consumer spending.

“Despite weak retail sales, we think the consumer is in good shape. [The data] are an incomplete picture of consumption but do give us important insight about the willingness to spend, capturing a greater portion of discretionary spending.”

And Friday is expected to provide a reminder of the momentum the US economy has already established. Fourth-quarter GDP revisions are expected to increase the growth rate to 2.4 per cent from 2.2 per cent.

michael.hunter@ft.com

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