PRODUCTIVITY AND COSTS Tuesday, May 9, 10 a.m. -- Output per hour worked in the nonfarm sector probably rose very little in the first quarter. That's suggested by the slower growth rates for economic output and total hours worked. Productivity increased at an annual rate of 1.7% in the fourth quarter. The small gain in productivity means that unit labor costs likely grew just a bit below the 1.7% pace of the fourth quarter. RETAIL SALES Thursday, May 11, 8:30 a.m. -- Retail sales probably rose by 0.5% in April, according to the median forecast of MMS International, one of the McGraw-Hill Cos. Sales had been very weak in recent months, falling 1% in February and rising 0.2% in March. The solid gain in April likely reflects a late Easter and the receipt of tax refunds that were delayed as the government checked tax returns for fraud. PRODUCER PRICES Thursday, May 11, 8:30 a.m. -- Producer prices of finished goods likely increased 0.3% in April, after no change in prices in March. Yearly inflation at the producer level is running at less than 2%. And the recent reports from the National Association of Purchasing Management suggest that price hikes for business supplies are not sticking. CONSUMER PRICES Friday, May 12, 8:30 a.m. -- The MMS forecast projects a 0.3% increase in consumer prices in April, slightly faster than the 0.2% rise in March. Still, annual inflation should stay below 3%, as slower growth keeps price rises to a minimum. April's one wild card could be higher food prices, as shortages caused by the California floods begin to show up at the grocery store. BUSINESS INVENTORIES Friday, May 12, 10 a.m. -- Inventories held by manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers probably increased 0.5% in March, say the MMS economists. Business stockpiles jumped 0.9% in February.
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