THE WEEK AHEAD
DURABLE GOODS ORDERS
Wednesday, Mar. 24, 8:30 a.m.
New orders taken by durable-goods manufacturers probably inched up 0.5% in February, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. Orders fell 2.2% in January, after a 9.7% jump in December. The expected small gain in new orders probably means that the backlog of unfilled orders fell after two consecutive gains.
Wednesday, Mar. 24
Sales of new domestically made cars probably fell sharply in mid-March to an annual rate of 5 million, from 6.5 million in the first 10 days of the month. But all of the deterioration can be traced to the Mar. 13-14 blizzard. Car buyers will likely head back to dealers later in the month. That means the selling rate for all of March could still end up ahead of February's disappointing 6 million. Light-truck sales in mid-March also were blasted by the blizzard. They likely fell to a 3.5 million pace or lower, from 4.4 million earlier in the month.
INITIAL UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS
Thursday, Mar. 25, 8:30 a.m.
New filings for state unemployment insurance benefits probably stood at 350,000 for the week ended Mar. 13. That would be down from the 376,000 filed in the week ended Feb. 27, but just slightly above the 343,000 pace of the four-week moving average. Despite the better tone of the labor markets, unemployment claims remain high.
Friday, Mar. 26, 8:30 a.m.
Corporate profits, as measured by the Commerce Dept., probably grew by about 6% in the fourth quarter of 1992, forecasts the MMS report. Earnings had fallen by 4.5% in the third quarter, but all of that was related to losses posted by the insurance industry in the wake of the summer hurricanes. Better demand, plus little growth in unit labor costs, are helping corporations raise profit margins. Lower interest rates are also helping them pare down debt payments.James C. Cooper and Kathleen Madigan