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The Week Ahead


Business Week Index

THE WEEK AHEAD

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Consumer prices of all goods and services

probably increased by 0.3% in January, according to the median forecast of

economists surveyed by MMS International, one of The McGraw-Hill Cos. That's

the same considerable gain posted in December, but it mostly reflects higher

food and energy prices. Crude-oil prices, however, have started to head lower

in February, so prices of gas and heating oil may drop by spring. Excluding the

volatile food and energy sectors, core prices probably increased by 0.2% last

month, after edging up 0.1% in December. For all of 1996, total consumer prices

increased by 3.3%, the first time in six years that inflation picked up. Core

prices, however, rose just 2.6% in 1996. That annual gain equaled the 1994 rate

as the smallest inflation rate since 1965.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 8:30 a.m.EST -- The MMS survey expects that the trade

deficit for goods and services widened to about $9.5 billion in December, after

the gap narrowed sharply to $8 billion in October and $8.4 billion in November.

The Commerce Dept.'s numbers on foreign trade in the fourth quarter added more

than two percentage points to economic growth at yearend. In the first quarter,

however, trade usually becomes a drag on growth, probably reflecting inaccurate

seasonal adjustments. For December, exports, which rose to a record in

November, probably edged lower. Imports, up 0.8% in November, increased again

in December.

HOUSING STARTS

Thursday, Feb. 20, 8:30 a.m.EST -- New home construction probably stood at an

annual rate of 1.4 million in January, says the MMS median forecast. That would

be 5% above the 1.33 million started in December, but about even with the

average of the entire fourth quarter. Cold weather and flooding probably

dragged down December building activity. Starts in the West plunged 29% for the

month.


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