The Week Ahead

FEDERAL BUDGET Monday, Sept. 23, 2 p.m.

The federal government will probably report a deficit of $44.6 billion for August, according to economists polled by McGraw-Hill Inc.'s MMS International. That would be an improvement from last August's $52.7 billion gap. Tax receipts, however, continue to deteriorate because of slow personal income and corporate profit growth.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE Tuesday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m.

The MMS consensus expects that the Conference Board's index of consumer confidence was unchanged in September from August's level of 76.3. The index hasn't risen since June, as consumers have become more pessimistic about the economy's performance within the next six months and about their own job prospects. The expected flat reading in September suggests little pickup in consumer spending this month.

DURABLE GOODS ORDERS Wednesday, Sept. 25, 8:30 a.m.

New orders for durable goods likely fell by 3.7% in August, say the MMS economists. However, the drop could be larger since it follows a huge 11.2% runup in orders in July. That jump was caused partly by a gain in aircraft orders that undoubtedly fell back last month. The July rise in new demand, coupled with the modest gain in August output, suggests that unfilled orders rose last month, after advancing 1.4% in July.

PERSONAL INCOME Friday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m.

Personal income probably increased a respectable 0.5% in August, after falling 0.1% in July. That's indicated by the gains in wages and the workweek last month. However, consumer spending likely showed no change in August after rising 0.4% in July. Growth in service outlays is expected to offset a decline in goods purchases. If the August expectations pan out, it would be the first time since April that income increased at a faster pace than spending did. That means the savings rate edged up from the low level of 3.7% in July.