HOUSING STARTS Tuesday, Nov. 19, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Housing starts in October were probably little changed from their September level of 1.44 million, at an annual rate. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Starts declined 6% in September, dragged down by a 9% drop in single-family home construction. But so far in 1996, homebuilding has been running ahead of 1995 activity. That's because demand has stayed solid, despite the runup in fixed mortgage rates in the first half of 1996. Rates have started to slide recently, and cheaper mortgages will offer some support to housing going into 1997. INTERNATIONAL TRADE Wednesday, Nov. 20, 8:30 a.m.EST -- The foreign trade deficit of goods and services probably narrowed in September, to $9.5 billion, says the MMS survey. The deficit also narrowed in August, to $10.8 billion, but that followed July's jump in the trade gap to $11.6 billion. Exports are expected to have increased in September on top of a 3% gain in August. And imports were probably flat, after rising 1.3% in July and 1.6% in August. Foreign trade has been a drag on the economy this year. In the third quarter, for example, economic growth would have been almost one percentage point faster if net exports had remained at their second-quarter level. One problem is the continued huge trade deficit with Mexico, which has not fully recovered from the peso devaluation of December, 1994. FEDERAL BUDGET Friday, Nov. 22, 2 p.m.EST -- The Treasury Dept. is expected to report a budget deficit of $28.5 billion for October, the first month of fiscal 1997. That would be a bit larger than the $22.8 billion of October, 1995. Washington ended fiscal 1996 just $107 billion in the hole, the smallest deficit in 15 years. However, the Congressional Budget Office has said that the deficit for 1997 will increase to $165 billion if no changes are made to the budget, and that the gap will reach $210 billion by 2002.
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