The Week Ahead

RETAIL SALES Thursday, Feb. 13, 8:30 a.m.

Retail sales were probably unchanged in January, according to economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. If so, January would be the fourth consecutive month of no gain in store receipts. In December, shopping fell by a disappointing 0.4%. Excluding feeble car buying, retail sales are expected to have edged up by 0.2% in January, reversing their 0.2% drop in December.

PRODUCER PRICE INDEX Friday, Feb. 14, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS consensus expects that producer prices of finished goods were flat in January, after falling 0.2% in December. Lower oil prices are holding back inflation at the wholesale level. But even excluding the volatile food and energy components, producer prices probably rose by 0.2% in January, the same mild advance as in December. The recession continues to keep price increases at a very moderate pace.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION Friday, Feb. 14, 9:15 a.m.

Output at the nation's factories, mines, and utilities probably fell by about 0.1% in January, say the MMS economists. This expected decline would be the fourth consecutive drop in output, including a 0.2% fall in December. The capacity utilization rate for all industry likely fell to 78.8% last month, from 79% in December. The poor industrial data are suggested by the stagnant performance of the National Association of Purchasing Management's index of industrial activity in January. Sagging domestic demand continues to hit the factory sector.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES Friday, Feb. 14, 10 a.m.

The MMS consensus expects that inventories held at factories, wholesalers, and retailers increased by about 0.1% in December. In November, stock levels inched up by 0.2%. Business sales probably declined by about 0.3% in December, as suggested by weak factory shipments and retail sales. In November, business sales rose by just 0.1%.

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