The Week Ahead

NEW SINGLE-FAMILY HOME SALES Monday, Mar. 30, 10 a.m.

New homes probably sold at an annual rate of about 630,000 in February, say economists surveyed by McGraw-Hill Inc.'s MMS International. If so, that would be the fastest selling pace since December, 1989. Home sales increased by nearly 13% in January, to 612,000, as lower mortgage rates made home ownership more affordable.

LEADING INDICATORS Tuesday, Mar. 31, 8:30 a.m.

The government's composite index of leading indicators likely increased by 0.8% in February, on top of a 0.9% jump in January. That's indicated by gains in the factory workweek, building permits, consumer expectations, and money-supply growth in February.

NAPM SURVEY Wednesday, Apr. 1, 10 a.m.

The National Association of Purchasing Management's index of business activity likely advanced to 53.4% in March, its highest reading in six months. The index stood at 52.4% in February.

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING Wednesday, Apr. 1, 10 a.m.

The MMS consensus expects that outlays for building projects probably jumped by 1% in February, after rising 1.3% in January. Most of the gain was in residential construction.

FACTORY INVENTORIES Thursday, Apr. 2, 10 a.m.

Manufacturing inventories likely fell by 0.2% in February. A large increase in factory output suggests manufacturers dipped into their warehouses again. In January, inventories shrank by 0.4%.

EMPLOYMENT Friday, Apr. 3, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS economists are cautiously forecasting a 60,000 gain in nonfarm payrolls in March, after a 164,000 increase in February. However, because signs of a rebound are drawing people back into the labor markets, the March unemployment rate is likely to remain at February's high 7.3%.

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