The Week Ahead

RETAIL SALES Tuesday, Jan. 15, 8:30 a.m.

Retail sales likely fell 0.7% in December, according to economists surveyed by McGraw-Hill Inc.'s MMS International. That dismal holiday season performance would follow a 0.1% dip in November.

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX Wednesday, Jan. 16, 8:30 a.m.

Consumer prices likely rose by about 0.2% in December. In November, prices rose 0.3%. Fuel prices should be tame.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION Wednesday, Jan. 16, 9:15 a.m.

The MMS consensus expects a 0.3% drop in output at the nation's factories, mines, and utilities in December, after a sharp 1.7% loss in November. That's suggested by the decline in factory jobs last month.

CAPACITY UTILIZATION Wednesday, Jan. 16, 9:15 a.m.

The drop in industrial output suggests that operating rates fell to 80.4% in December, from 80.9% in November.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES Wednesday, Jan. 16, 10 a.m.

The MMS economists think inventories at manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers increased 0.2% in November. That's the same rise already reported in factory stockpiles alone for November, and it would be half the 0.4% gain in business inventories posted in both September and October.

HOUSING STARTS Thursday, Jan. 17, 8:30 a.m.

Housing starts probably dropped to about a 1.05 million annual rate in December. In November, starts rebounded 9.2%, to 1.13 million.

MERCHANDISE TRADE DEFICIT Friday, Jan. 18, 8:30 a.m.

The foreign deficit likely narrowed to $9.7 billion in November, from $11.6 billion in October. A drop in oil shipments is expected to lead a decline in imports, which posted a record high in October. Exports, also at a record in October, are projected to be unchanged in November.