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BUSINESS INVENTORIES Monday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m.

Inventories held by manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers probably fell by 0.2% in July, according to economists surveyed by MMS International, a unit of McGraw-Hill Inc. The loss would be the sixth in a row for inventories, including a 0.3% drop in June. Business sales likely increased a strong 0.6% in July, after a 0.2% gain in June. That's suggested by the already-reported rises in factory and retail sales.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION Tuesday, Sept. 17, 9:15 a.m.

Industrial output probably increased by 0.5% in August, the same healthy rise as in July. That's indicated by the increase in hours worked in the factory sector in August. Gains in the production of steel, fabricated metals, and chemicals are likely to lead the August advance.

CAPACITY UTILIZATION Tuesday, Sept. 17, 9:15 a.m.

The August increase for industrial output expected by the MMS consensus suggests that factories, utilities, and mines used about 80% of their capacity in August, a rise from the 79.7% rate in July.

HOUSING STARTS Wednesday, Sept. 18, 8:30 a.m.

Housing starts probably stood at an annual rate of about 1.06 million in August, say MMS economists. That's little changed from the 1.07 million rate in July. The sharp 8.5% drop in new-home sales in July, however, and the decline in hours worked in the construction industry in August suggest that homebuilding activity may have been much weaker last month.

MERCHANDISE TRADE DEFICIT Thursday, Sept. 19, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS consensus expects that the foreign trade deficit widened to about $5.4 billion in July, after falling to an eight-year low of $4.02 billion in June. Exports and imports, which have both declined for two months in a row, are projected to have risen in July. A large increase in oil imports, however, could push the trade deficit higher than expected.JAMES C. COOPER AND KATHLEEN MADIGAN

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