INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION Monday, Dec. 15, 9:15 a.m. EST -- Industrial output likely increased a strong 0.6% in November, on top of a 0.5% jump in October. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. The average operating rate for industry probably edged up to 84.5%, from 84.3% in October. HOUSING STARTS Tuesday, Dec. 16, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Housing starts probably fell slightly to an annual rate of 1.49 million in November. In October, starts unexpectedly rose 1.4%, to a 1.53 million pace. Strong job growth and income gains are fueling housing demand. CONSUMER PRICE INDEX Tuesday, Dec. 16, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Consumer prices for all goods and services likely increased 0.2% in November, the same gain posted in October. Similarly, core prices, which exclude food and energy, likely rose 0.2% in November, the same as in October. FOMC MEETING Tuesday, Dec. 16 -- The Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee will likely hold short-term interest rates steady. Unlike the unanimous MMS survey before the Nov. 12 meeting, however, the forecast for no rate hike is divided. At least one economist expects the Fed to raise the federal funds rate by a quarter point, to 5.75%. INTERNATIONAL TRADE Thursday, Dec. 18, 8:30 a.m. EST -- The trade deficit was likely little changed in October, from September's $11.1 billion gap. Both exports and imports probably rose slightly. In September, exports fell 0.7%, while imports increased 1.2%. Trade has been a drag on growth even before the Asian crisis threatened to curtail U.S. exports, and it will likely hurt growth in 1998. FEDERAL BUDGET Thursday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. EST -- The Treasury Dept. is likely to report a budget deficit of $27.9 billion for November, says the MMS survey. That's $10 billion less than the gap of November, 1996.
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