The Week Ahead

RETAIL SALES Wednesday, Mar. 13, 8:30 a.m.

Retail sales probably increased by about 0.3% in February, according to economists surveyed by McGraw-Hill Inc.'s MMS International. That gain would hardly reverse January's 0.9% drop or the 1.5% plunge in December. However, during the week of Mar. 18, the Commerce Dept. will release revisions to the retail-sales data of the past three years. That could alter the severity and timing of the retail slump.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES Thursday, Mar. 14, 10 a.m.

Inventories held by factories, wholesalers, and retailers were probably unchanged in January, after shrinking by 0.7% in December. Factories have already reported no change in their stockpiles. Business shipments probably fell by about 0.6% in January, after plummeting 2.3% in December. That's indicated by weak retail and factory sales.

PRODUCER PRICE INDEX Friday, Mar. 15, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS economists expect that producer prices of finished goods fell by 0.2% in February, after slipping by 0.1% in January. Falling energy prices caused much of the February decline, as they did in January. Excluding food and energy, producer prices are expected to increase 0.2% in February, after rising 0.5% in January.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION Friday, Mar. 15, 9:15 a.m.

Output at factories, mines, and utilities probably fell 0.2% further in February, after dropping 0.4% in January. Cuts in auto production will likely lead the downturn. Output has fallen in each of the past four months as demand for goods remains sluggish.

CAPACITY UTILIZATION Friday, Mar. 15, 9:15 a.m.

The expected decline in industrial output means that operating rates probably fell to about 79.6% in February, according to the MMS consensus. In January, capacity utilization fell to 79.9%, its lowest level in four years.

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