The Week Ahead

PRODUCER PRICE INDEX Tuesday, Nov. 10, 8:30 a.m.

One economic factor that President-elect Clinton doesn't have to fret over is inflation. Producer prices for finished goods probably rose by just 0.2% in October, say economists surveyed by mms International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. That follows a mild 0.3% increase in September and keeps producer inflation rising by about 1.5% from a year ago. Food prices likely declined in October, but fuel costs may have risen. Even excluding the volatile food and energy components, though, the forecasters say producer prices probably also advanced by just 0.2% in October, the same small rise as in September. Weak consumer demand and low growth in unit labor costs will keep the lid on inflation in months to come.

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

Consumer prices probably increased by 0.2% in October, just as they did in September. An increase in gasoline costs will be offset by smaller gains in prices elsewhere. Excluding food and energy, consumer prices probably also rose by 0.2% last month, the same modest increase as in September. In particular, the growth of service inflation has moderated considerably in this sluggish economy. Service prices excluding energy are up by only 3.6% over the past 12 months, down from 4.7% a year earlier.

RETAIL SALES Friday, Nov. 13, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS economists expect that retail sales likely increased by 0.4% in October, on top of the 0.3% rise of September. Receipts at department stores and grocery chains probably advanced last month. The upward revision to new-home sales suggests that furniture buying may have increased a bit, but car sales added little to the retail sector. The modest increase in October means that retail sales started the fourth quarter at a higher level than their third-quarter average. The biggest challenge for retailers in this quarter, though, will be maintaining the sales growth during the important holiday shopping season.