The Week Ahead

FEDERAL BUDGET Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2 p.m.

The federal government will end fiscal 1991 with a $13 billion deficit in September, say economists surveyed by MMS International, a unit of McGraw-Hill Inc. If so, Washington will post a 1991 deficit of $272 billion -- shattering the previous record of $221 billion set in 1986. The recession, thrift bailout, and Persian Gulf war combined to cause the deterioration. In September, 1990, the government had a $20.8 billion surplus.

CAR SALES Wednesday, Oct. 23

New domestically made cars likely sold at an annual rate of about 6 million in the middle 10 days of October. That would be a gain from the pitiful 5.5 million pace of the first 10 days, and it suggests that car sales for all of October will be at their lowest monthly rate since April. Despite the end of the recession in the spring, consumers still have not raised their spending by much. Unless car buying picks up, auto production is sure to be cut below its already modest pace for the fourth quarter.

INITIAL UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS Thursday, Oct. 24, 8:30 a.m.

New filings for state unemployment-insurance benefits are likely to increase to an annual rate of about 440,000 for the week ended Oct. 12. Jobless claims have been on the rise since late June despite the recession's end in the spring. In the last week of September, they rose by 5,000, to 435,000. The expected increase in unemployment claims suggests that the jobless rate for October will rise from September's 6.7% rate.

DURABLE GOODS ORDERS Thursday, Oct. 24, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS economists expect little change in the level of orders taken by durable-goods manufacturers in September. Orders had fallen 3.9% in August after a record gain of 11.7% in July. The expected flatness in new orders suggests little change in the level of unfilled orders for September. The backlog rose 0.2% in August and 1.6% in July after falling in each of the previous four months.

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