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The Week Ahead


Business Week Index

THE WEEK AHEAD

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION

Tuesday, Feb. 17, 9:15 a.m. EST -- Output at the nation's factories, mines, and

utilities probably rose 0.3% in January, says the median forecast of economists

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

suggested by January's solid gain in factory jobs and high level of overtime.

The average operating rate for all industry likely slipped to 83.3%, from

December's 83.4%. Industrial production grew at an annual rate of 7.4% in the

fourth quarter, the largest rise in 1 1/2 years.

PRODUCER PRICE INDEX

Wednesday, Feb. 18, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Producer prices for finished goods likely

fell 0.2% in January, led by a plunge in oil prices, as well as cheaper

imports. Producer prices dropped by 0.2% in both November and December, in

large part because of cheaper energy costs. Excluding food and fuel, core

producer prices were likely unchanged in January after falling 0.1% in

December, says the MMS median forecast.

HOUSING STARTS

Wednesday, Feb. 18, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Housing starts in January were probably

unchanged from December's annual rate of 1.52 million. Temperate weather in

parts of the nation enabled builders to break ground on new projects. Housing

enjoyed one of its best years in 1997, and the current low mortgage rates and

healthy consumer fundamentals suggest that activity will not fall by much in

1998.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Thursday, Feb. 19, 8:30 a.m. EST -- The MMS survey forecasts that the foreign

trade deficit for goods and services widened to $9.5 billion in December, from

$8 billion in November. Exports, which dropped 1.3% in November, probably fell

again in December. Imports, which declined a large 2.3%, likely bounced back in

December. A narrowing in the trade gap added significantly to economic growth

in the fourth quarter, but trade is likely reversing course now, putting a drag

on first-quarter growth.


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