Business Week Index
THE WEEK AHEAD
Tuesday, Feb. 17, 9:15 a.m. EST -- Output at the nation's factories, mines, and
utilities probably rose 0.3% in January, says the median forecast of economists
surveyed by MMS International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. That's
suggested by January's solid gain in factory jobs and high level of overtime.
The average operating rate for all industry likely slipped to 83.3%, from
December's 83.4%. Industrial production grew at an annual rate of 7.4% in the
fourth quarter, the largest rise in 1 1/2 years.
PRODUCER PRICE INDEX
Wednesday, Feb. 18, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Producer prices for finished goods likely
fell 0.2% in January, led by a plunge in oil prices, as well as cheaper
imports. Producer prices dropped by 0.2% in both November and December, in
large part because of cheaper energy costs. Excluding food and fuel, core
producer prices were likely unchanged in January after falling 0.1% in
December, says the MMS median forecast.
Wednesday, Feb. 18, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Housing starts in January were probably
unchanged from December's annual rate of 1.52 million. Temperate weather in
parts of the nation enabled builders to break ground on new projects. Housing
enjoyed one of its best years in 1997, and the current low mortgage rates and
healthy consumer fundamentals suggest that activity will not fall by much in
Thursday, Feb. 19, 8:30 a.m. EST -- The MMS survey forecasts that the foreign
trade deficit for goods and services widened to $9.5 billion in December, from
$8 billion in November. Exports, which dropped 1.3% in November, probably fell
again in December. Imports, which declined a large 2.3%, likely bounced back in
December. A narrowing in the trade gap added significantly to economic growth
in the fourth quarter, but trade is likely reversing course now, putting a drag
on first-quarter growth.