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The Week Ahead


Business Outlook

THE WEEK AHEAD

HOUSING STARTS

Tuesday, Oct. 19, 8:30 a.m.

Housing starts probably fell to an annual rate of 1.30 million in September, down from their 1.32 million pace in August, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. The decline is suggested by the drop in total hours worked in the construction industry last month. Still, low interest rates and a high number of mortgage applications mean that housing demand remains firm. Single-family house construction has been particularly strong, rising by 11% in August. Building of multiunit housing is still a small drag on the housing industry, as past overbuilding and demographics reduce the need for new apartments in most parts of the country.

INITIAL UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

Thursday, Oct. 21, 8:30 a.m.

New claims for state unemployment insurance benefits likely stood at 320,000 for the week ended Oct. 16, the same as the week ended Oct. 2. Filings could be even lower, however, because the survey week includes the Columbus Day holiday, when state offices were closed. In general, jobless claims have been running in a lower range since the middle of August. After averaging about 350,000 for most of the summer, claims have been running at a rate of 325,000 for the past seven weeks.

FEDERAL BUDGET

Friday, Oct. 22

The U.S. Treasury will probably report a surplus of $9 billion in September, forecast the MMS economists. If so, the federal deficit for fiscal 1993 would total $254 billion--the smallest gap since 1990. The government posted a $23.2 billion deficit in August, and a surplus of $5.5 billion in September, 1992. Washington's finances this year have been helped by an increase in tax receipts on the revenue side. But more important, outlays have slowed. Low interest rates are reducing the government's interest bill, modest inflation is keep cost-of-living adjustments down, and defense cuts are curtailing the military budget.JAMES C. COOPER AND KATHLEEN MADIGAN


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