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The Week Ahead


Business Outlook

THE WEEK AHEAD

INSTALLMENT CREDIT

Tuesday, Dec. 7

The surge in retail sales in October suggests that consumers probably added $5 billion in credit during that month. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. The October gain would be the fourth monthly increase of $5 billion or more, including a $6.7 billion jump in credit in September. Revolving debt, which includes credit cards, is leading the recent runup in borrowing, but auto financing is also on the rise, thanks to increased car and truck buying. Consumers are borrowing more because household budgets can handle it. The ratio of installment debt to disposable income has stayed at about 16% for more than a year. In addition, because consumers didn't borrow much in 1992, their monthly debt payments have been greatly reduced.

PRODUCER PRICE INDEX

Thursday, Dec. 9, 8:30 a.m.

Producer prices of finished goods probably rose just 0.1% in November, after falling 0.2% in October. A retreat in gasoline prices, after a 6.3% surge in October, likely offset small increases in other goods. In addition, new-car prices, which had fallen 3.9% in October, probably rebounded a bit. Still, inflation at the producer level is on track to show no change for 1993, after rising just 1.6% in 1992 and falling 0.1% in 1991.

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX

Friday, Dec. 10, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS consensus is that consumer prices rose a modest 0.2% in November. Prices increased 0.4% in October, but that was caused mainly by a 4.3 -per-gallon gas-tax hike. If the recent price drops in gasoline and heating oil stick through most of December, the total consumer price index may post a decline this month. That means consumer prices for 1993 could rise at the lowest rate in seven years. Core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy, probably also rose 0.2% last month, after advancing 0.3% in October. The core inflation rate will likely end the year at 3%--the lowest pace in two decades.JAMES C. COOPER AND KATHLEEN MADIGAN


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