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HOUSING STARTS Tuesday, Mar. 19, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Housing starts probably fell

back to an annual rate of 1.4 million in February, according to the median

forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, one of The McGraw-Hill

Companies. Starts posted an unexpected gain in January, rising 4.4%, to a 1.45

million pace. The recent rise in mortgage rates may begin to hold back housing.

However, the 4.2% rise in new homes in January suggests buyers may have rushed

in early 1996 to lock in lower rates.

RETAIL SALES Wednesday, Mar. 20, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Retail sales likely increased

a solid 0.9% in February, says the revised MMS forecast. That's suggested by

the steep advance in motor vehicle sales and increases reported in the weekly

surveys of other retailers. Excluding cars, sales probably rose 0.5% last

month. In January, the blizzard kept many shoppers at home: Total sales fell

0.3% while nonauto receipts were flat.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES Thursday, Mar. 21, 10 a.m.EST -- Inventories at

manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers likely increased by 0.4% in January,

after falling 0.5% in December. Factories have already reported a 0.7% gain in

their stock levels, in part because the blizzard prevented goods from being

shipped out. Business sales probably fell 0.8% in January, reversing the 1%

gain in December. Factory sales were down 0.9% in January, and retail sales


FEDERAL BUDGET Thursday, Mar. 21, 2 p.m.EST -- The Treasury Dept. is expected

to report a $45 billion deficit for February, forecasts the MMS report. That's

bigger than the $38.4 billion recorded in February, 1995. But the federal

government is playing catch-up in its outlays after the second shutdown kept

workers at home. Also, tax refunds are trailing behind 1995`s pace. Still, the

federal budget is on track to total about $150 billion in this fiscal year.

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