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The Week Ahead


Business Week Index

THE WEEK AHEAD

VEHICLE SALES

Wednesday, Sept. 6 -- Sales of domestically made cars and light trucks probably

stood at an annual rate of 12.3 million in August, according to the median

forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, one of the McGraw-Hill

Cos. Although some auto makers will disclose their sales earlier, the data for

total sales will have to wait until others, including Ford Motor Co., report on

Sept. 6. The expected August sales pace would be a rebound after the year's

steady decline in vehicle purchases. In July, sales fell a steep 6.3%, to a

pace of just 11.9 million, even though many carmakers offered rebates and other

incentives. The sales downtrend lifted auto inventories and caused a drop in

production, which has accounted for two-thirds of the drop in factory output

since March.

UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

Thursday, Sept. 7, 8:30 a.m. -- New filings for state unemployment benefits

during the week ended Sept. 2 will probably fall to about 310,000. Claims had

picked up in July, going above 400,000 in the second week. The rise partly

reflected auto-plant shutdowns, which pushed up filings in that month. But

jobless claims have fallen back since then, with only 348,000 in the week ended

Aug. 19. Still, claims remain at a high level, given the tightness of the labor

markets.

INSTALLMENT CREDIT

Friday, Sept. 8, 4 p.m. -- The MMS survey forecasts that consumers probably

took on $9.5 billion more in installment debt in July than they paid off. That

would not be much different from the $9.6 billion added in June, but the

increases in both months are much slower than the $13.1 billion averaged in the

three months ended in May. The July slowdown is suggested by the 0.1% drop in

retail sales overall and the weakness in car purchases in particular. The

recent surge in borrowing has lifted the ratio of installment debt to

disposable income to 18.5% in June, near the record peak of the late 1980s.

Revolving debt, which includes credit cards, is leading the runup.


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