The Week Ahead

PRODUCER PRICE INDEX Thursday, Dec. 12, 8:30 a.m.

Producer prices of finished goods probably edged up by just 0.2% in November, according to economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. Prices had jumped an unexpectedly large 0.7% in October, because of a runup in energy prices and problems in the seasonal adjustment of prices of consumer durable goods. As a result of the adjustment quirk, producer prices, excluding food and energy, surged by 0.5% in October. However, the MMS consensus expects that nonfood, nonenergy prices rose by only 0.2% in November. Even with the jump in October, inflation at the producer price level is exceedingly tame. Prices are unchanged from a year ago.

RETAIL SALES Thursday, Dec. 12, 8:30 a.m.

Retail sales were little changed in November, says the MMS report. In October, they fell by 0.1%. The November weakness is suggested by falling car sales. However, even excluding auto sales, store receipts are expected to rise only 0.1% in November, after no change in October. Nonauto retail sales haven't increased since July.

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX Friday, Dec. 13, 8:30 a.m.

Consumer prices likely rose by 0.3% in November, after edging up 0.1% in October. The MMS consensus is that the core consumer price index, which excludes food and energy, also advanced by 0.3%, after a mere 0.1% gain in October.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES Friday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m.

Inventories held by manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers probably grew by 0.2% in October. That would be a slower accumulation than the 0.6% increase posted in September. In that month, retail stock levels jumped 1.5% -- an ominous turn because stores were trying to keep inventories in check before the onset of the holiday shopping season. Business sales were likely to be up by 0.2% in October, after rising 0.6% in September.

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