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The Week Ahead


Wednesday, Jan. 19, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Housing starts were probably little changed in December from the annual rate of 1.6 million posted in November. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by Standard & Poor's MMS, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Thanks to strong consumer supports and low mortgage rates, the home building industry in 1999 had its best year since 1986.BEIGE BOOK

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2 p.m. EST -- The Federal Reserve will release its compilation of regional economic activity. The Beige Book is made available in advance of the upcoming policy meeting scheduled for Feb. 1-2. According to a separate question in the S&P MMS survey, all the economists polled expect the Fed to raise short-term interest rates by a quarter-point at the February meeting.INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Thursday, Jan. 20, 8:30 a.m. EST -- The U.S. trade deficit for goods and services probably narrowed only slightly in November, to about $25.5 billion, down from its record high of $25.9 billion in October. That suggests that foreign trade was a large drag on economic growth in the fourth quarter, even as domestic demand soared. Exports, which have fallen for two straight months, likely rebounded in November. Imports probably increased as well. Shipments of foreign goods have risen in each of the first 10 months of 1999.FEDERAL BUDGET

Friday, Jan. 21, 2 p.m. EST -- The U.S. Treasury is likely to report a budget surplus of $20 billion for December, says the S&P MMS median forecast. That would compare with a deficit of $5.2 billion in December, 1999.

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