The Week Ahead

DURABLE GOODS ORDERS Tuesday, Mar. 26, 8:30 a.m.

New orders for durable goods probably fell by about 0.6% in February, after dropping 1.8% in January, say economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. However, the steep 1.3% decline in durable goods output in February suggests that new orders may have fallen even more. That means the backlog of unfilled orders, which shrank by 0.1% in January, likely fell again in February.

PERSONAL INCOME Thursday, Mar. 28, 10 a.m.

Personal income likely advanced a small 0.2% in February, after falling by 0.5% in January. However, such a small top-line gain means that after adjusting for inflation and taxes, real disposable earnings were probably down for the month, after dropping 0.9% in January. Consumers probably raised their spending by about 0.4% in February, according to the MMS survey. That's suggested by gains in new-car buying and other retail sales. But the expected increase would not reverse the 0.6% decline in spending in January.

LEADING INDICATORS Friday, Mar. 29, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS consensus expects a 0.5% increase in the government's composite index of leading indicators in February. If so, that would be the first rise in seven months. Moreover, the advance could be much stronger, as indicated by the large increases in stock prices, consumer expectations, and building permits in February. But the index will have to rise for more than one month to forecast the economy's recovery. In January, the indicators fell by 0.4%.

NEW SINGLE-FAMILY HOME SALES Friday, Mar. 29, 10 a.m.

New homes probably sold at an annual rate of about 475,000 in February, after dropping by 12.3% in January, to a dismal 408,000 pace. The strong showing for February is indicated by the 18.3% jump in single-family housing starts, along with a decline in mortgage rates during the month.

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