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The Week Ahead


Business Outlook

THE WEEK AHEAD

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING Monday, Apr. 1, 10 a.m.

Spending on construction projects probably rose a small 0.3% in February, according to the consensus forecast compiled by MMS International, a unit of McGraw-Hill Inc. A surge in homebuilding likely offset weakness in the construction of factories and offices. In January, spending dropped 2.6%, its 10th consecutive decline.

NAPM SURVEY Monday, Apr. 1, 10 a.m.

The National Association of Purchasing Management's index of industrial activity probably changed little in March from its February level of 38.5%. The low readings of the index indicate, however, that weakness in the industrial sector continues to keep the entire economy on a recessionary path.

FACTORY INVENTORIES Tuesday, Apr. 2, 10 a.m.

Inventories held by manufacturers likely rose by about 0.4% in February, despite sharp cuts in production in recent months. Inventories were unchanged in January and had fallen 0.8% in December. But problems in wholesale and retail trade stockpiles, plus continued sluggish demand, suggest that an excess buildup of inventories may have begun last quarter. MMS reports factory orders probably fell by about 0.3% in February, after decreasing 1.7% in January.

EMPLOYMENT Friday, Apr. 5, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS economists expect that nonfarm payrolls declined a further sharp 125,000 in March. More than 1.2 million jobs have already been eliminated since last June. The unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 6.7% in March, up from 6.5% in February.

INSTALLMENT CREDIT Friday, Apr. 5

Consumers likely added little to their debt loads in February, say MMS economists. Credit has fallen in each of the previous two months, as households try to pay down their existing debts to improve their balance sheets.JAMES C. COOPER AND KATHLEEN MADIGAN


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