The Week Ahead

FEDERAL BUDGET Tuesday, May 21, 2 p.m.

The federal government is expected to post a $33 billion surplus for April, according to economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. The projected surplus is smaller than the $41.8 billion surplus in April, 1990. Washington's budget usually reaches about half of its deficit for the entire fiscal year in the first seven months. The slowdown in tax collections this April means that the 1991 deficit is on track to hit $237 billion. Some economists expect that the recession will increase the demand for spending on public assistance while cutting into tax payments. As a result, the deficit could go even higher, to more than $250 billion. In 1990, Washington posted a record red-ink sum of $220.4 billion.

DURABLE-GOODS ORDERS Thursday, May 23, 8:30 a.m.

New orders placed with durable-goods manufacturers probably increased by about 1.5% in April, say MMS economists. That's suggested by the small increase in auto output. The expected gain, however, would hardly reverse the previous three consecutive declines, including a 4.9% drop in March. With new demand so sluggish, unfilled orders likely fell by about 1% in April, after edging down 0.5% in March. Unfilled orders are flat from a year earlier. The declining backlog of demand suggests that durable-goods output will not revive in the second quarter.

INITIAL UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS Thursday, May 23, 8:30 a.m.

Filings for state unemployment insurance benefits probably stood at an annual rate of about 475,000 for the week ended May 11. Claims tend to be volatile from week to week, but the expected number is about equal to the 476,000 pace averaged during April. For the week ended Apr. 27, claims fell to an annual rate of 455,000. Even so, the level of jobless claims remains high enough to indicate that the unemployment rate, which had fallen slightly in April, to 6.6% from March's 6.8% level, will probably increase again in May.

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