The Week Ahead

FEDERAL BUDGET Monday, Feb. 24, 2 p.m.

The federal government probably had a $12 billion deficit in January, say economists surveyed by McGraw-Hill Inc.'s MMS International. The deficit would be a swing away from the $1.7 billion surplus posted in January, 1991. Higher government outlays contributed to the deficit this January. The government is already $83 billion in the red for the first quarter of fiscal 1992 and is expected to post a $400 billion deficit for all of 1992.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE Tuesday, Feb. 25, 10 a.m.

The Conference Board's index of consumer confidence likely rose slightly in February, to a reading of about 52, up from an extremely low 50.4 in January. That's suggested by the small rise in the index of consumer sentiment reported for early February by the University of Michigan. Still, both indexes continue to indicate that consumers are not upbeat about the economy.

DURABLE GOODS ORDERS Wednesday, Feb. 26, 8:30 a.m.

MMS economists expect that new orders taken by durable-goods producers probably rose by just 0.5% in January. That would hardly reverse the 5.2% plunge that orders took in December. The small gain is suggested by the steep 1.3% drop in durable-goods output in January. The expected mild rebound in new demand means that unfilled orders likely dropped in January, after falling 0.5% in December.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT (REVISED) Friday, Feb. 28, 8:30 a.m.

The Commerce Dept.'s second look at the fourth-quarter gross domestic product will probably show that the economy grew at an annual rate of 0.5%, only a minor increase from the paltry 0.3% gain originally reported. An upward revision in consumer spending and inventory accumulation will slightly offset a deterioration in the foreign sector. The MMS consensus also expects no change in the gross domestic product price deflator, which shows that prices rose at an annual rate of 1.7% in the fourth quarter.

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