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HOUSING STARTS Tuesday, Apr. 16, 8:30 a.m.

Housing starts probably fell to an annual rate of about 970,000 in March, say economists surveyed by MMS International, a unit of McGraw-Hill Inc. In February, unseasonably warm weather and falling mortgage rates pushed starts up by 16.4%, to a 989,000 pace for the month. But slack demand and a rise in interest rates last month suggest that homebuilding dropped back in March.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION Tuesday, Apr. 16, 9:15 a.m.

Output at the nation's factories, mines, and utilities likely fell by 0.5% in March, say the MMS economists. That's suggested by declines in factory jobs and workweek length. Output has fallen in each of the five previous months, including a 0.8% drop in February. The expected March decline would mean output decreased at a staggering 9.4% annual rate in the first quarter, the steepest decline in 11 years.

CAPACITY UTILIZATION Tuesday, Apr. 16, 9:15 a.m.

The expected drop in industrial output suggests that operating rates fell to 78.6% in March, from 79.1% in February.

MERCHANDISE TRADE DEFICIT Thursday, Apr. 18, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS economists project that the trade deficit narrowed slightly in February, to $6.5 billion from $7 billion in January. Exports, which rose 3.6% in January, probably fell in February but not as much as imports likely dropped after their 4.8% advance in January.

FEDERAL BUDGET Friday, Apr. 19, 2 p.m.

The U. S. government will probably report a $37.9 billion deficit for March. In March, 1990, the government posted a $53.3 billion deficit, but special factors, including early payment of some April entitlement checks, overstated the year-ago deficit. This year, the recession is taking its toll, especially on government receipts. Individual tax payments for January through March are expected to be the weakest on record.James C. Cooper and Kathleen Madigan

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