The Week Ahead

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX Tuesday, Sept. 15, 8:30 a.m.

Consumer prices probably increased by just 0.2% in August, say economists surveyed by McGraw-Hill Inc.'s mms International. Prices rose just 0.1% in July and are up just 3.2% from a year ago. Excluding the volatile food and energy components, prices are expected to have risen by 0.3% in August, after 0.2% advances in June and July.

RETAIL SALES Tuesday, Sept. 15, 8:30 a.m.

Retail sales likely were little changed in August, after rising 0.5% in July. Lackluster car sales offset mild gains elsewhere. In particular, rainy, cool weather in August probably helped sales of new autumn apparel. Still, consumers remain reluctant to shop. After large gains in January and February, retail sales have gone nowhere.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION Wednesday, Sept. 16, 9:15 a.m.

Output at the nation's factories, mines, and utilities probably fell by 0.3% in August, after a 0.4% gain in July, forecasts the mms report. That's suggested by the sharp 97,000 drop in manufacturing jobs last month, along with no change in the factory workweek. Because of the output decline, capacity-utilization rates for all industry likely fell to 78.6% in August, from 78.9% in July. That would be the lowest operating rate since March.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES Wednesday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m.

Inventories stored at factories, wholesalers, and retailers likely edged up by 0.1% in July, after rising 0.6% in June. Most of the June gain was in retail stock levels, which grew by 0.8%.

MERCHANDISE TRADE DEFICIT Thursday, Sept. 17, 8:30 a.m.

The trade deficit probably widened to $7 billion in July, from $6.6 billion in June. Exports, which jumped 7.2% in June, are expected to fall back a bit. Imports, up 4.7% in June, are also expected to drop slightly. After providing some lift to the economy in 1991, foreign trade is starting to subtract from growth.

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