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The Week Ahead

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Monday, Apr. 7, 3 p.m.EDT -- Consumers likely added $7 billion in credit in

February, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS

International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. After borrowing slowed in late

1996, credit use has bounced back. In January, credit increased by $8.4

billion. Revolving debt alone, which includes credit cards, surged by $7.9

billion, rising at its fastest pace in more than a year. The advance reflects

the rebound in consumer spending.


Thursday, Apr. 10, 8:30 a.m.EDT -- New claims for state unemployment benefits

probably stood at 320,000 for the week ended Apr. 5. Jobless claims have

dropped sharply since the end of 1996, evidence of the greater availability of

jobs. In the middle of March, the four-week moving average stood at 311,000,

the lowest reading in this expansion.


Friday, Apr. 11, 8:30 a.m.EDT -- The MMS median forecast expects that producer

prices of finished goods were unchanged in March. If so, it is just another

sign that wholesale inflation is nonexistent: The PPI dropped 0.3% in January

and 0.4% in February. Falling food and energy prices contributed to the

declines. Excluding food and energy, core prices probably edged up just 0.1% in

March, after slipping by 0.1% in February.


Friday, Apr. 11, 8:30 a.m.EDT -- Retail sales likely rose a healthy 0.5% in

March. That would follow sales jumps of 1.5% in January and 0.8% in February.

Given the retailing data, real consumer spending probably grew at an annual

rate of close to 5% in the first quarter. The March gain is suggested by

increases in the BTM/Schroders chain-store sales index and the weekly survey

done by LJR Redbook Research. In addition, an early Easter probably pulled

apparel sales forward from April into March.

We Almost Lost the Nasdaq

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