The Week Ahead

HOUSING STARTS Tuesday, Apr. 16, 8:30 a.m.

Housing starts probably fell to an annual rate of about 970,000 in March, say economists surveyed by MMS International, a unit of McGraw-Hill Inc. In February, unseasonably warm weather and falling mortgage rates pushed starts up by 16.4%, to a 989,000 pace for the month. But slack demand and a rise in interest rates last month suggest that homebuilding dropped back in March.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION Tuesday, Apr. 16, 9:15 a.m.

Output at the nation's factories, mines, and utilities likely fell by 0.5% in March, say the MMS economists. That's suggested by declines in factory jobs and workweek length. Output has fallen in each of the five previous months, including a 0.8% drop in February. The expected March decline would mean output decreased at a staggering 9.4% annual rate in the first quarter, the steepest decline in 11 years.

CAPACITY UTILIZATION Tuesday, Apr. 16, 9:15 a.m.

The expected drop in industrial output suggests that operating rates fell to 78.6% in March, from 79.1% in February.

MERCHANDISE TRADE DEFICIT Thursday, Apr. 18, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS economists project that the trade deficit narrowed slightly in February, to $6.5 billion from $7 billion in January. Exports, which rose 3.6% in January, probably fell in February but not as much as imports likely dropped after their 4.8% advance in January.

FEDERAL BUDGET Friday, Apr. 19, 2 p.m.

The U. S. government will probably report a $37.9 billion deficit for March. In March, 1990, the government posted a $53.3 billion deficit, but special factors, including early payment of some April entitlement checks, overstated the year-ago deficit. This year, the recession is taking its toll, especially on government receipts. Individual tax payments for January through March are expected to be the weakest on record.

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