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The Week Ahead

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Monday, Dec. 16, 9:15 a.m.EST -- Output at factories, mines, and utilities

likely bounced back by 0.5% in November, after dropping by a similar amount in

October. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS

International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies, and is suggested by the gains

in factory payrolls and overtime. The median forecast also expects that the

average operating rate for all industries increased to 83% last month, from

82.7%. Factory output dropped in October because the strike at General Motors

Corp. in Canada caused a shortage of auto parts. As a result, some GM plants in

the U.S. closed, and vehicle production dropped off by 8.1%.


Tuesday, Dec. 17, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Ground was probably broken on new housing

units totaling an annual rate of 1.39 million in November. That would be a

small uptick from the 1.37 million housing starts in October. Starts fell a

steep 6.1% in September, and another 5.1% in October.


Tuesday, Dec. 17 -- The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve

Board will meet to set monetary policy for the next six weeks. All of the MMS

economists expect that the Fed will leave the federal funds rate unchanged at

5.25%. The last policy move was in January, 1996, when the Fed cut a quarter of

a percentage point from the fed funds rate, the overnight rate for interbank



Thursday, Dec. 19, 8:30 a.m.EST -- The trade deficit for goods and services

likely narrowed in October, to $10.3 billion. In September, the trade gap

widened, to a larger-than-expected $11.3 billion. The MMS economists forecast

that exports were unchanged after falling 1.4% in September. Imports probably

fell after increasing for three months in a row. A deterioration in the U.S.

foreign trade gap subtracted more than one percentage point from economic

growth in the third quarter.

The Good Business Issue
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