The Week Ahead

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION Monday, Nov. 16, 9:15 a.m.

Output at the nation's factories, mines, and utilities probably edged up by just 0.2% in October, according to economists surveyed by mms International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. The small advance is suggested by the longer factory workweek, especially in overtime, last month. Nevertheless, production declined in three of the previous four months, including a 0.2% drop in September. Weak demand, both foreign and domestic, is causing many industries to scale back output schedules. Even with the expected uptick in production, capacity-utilization rates for all industry probably stood at 78.4% in October. That's unchanged from September, but down from 78.7% in August and 79.1% in July.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES Monday, Nov. 16, 10 a.m.

Inventories held by manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers were likely unchanged in September. Factories have already reported a 0.3% decline in their stock levels, and that should be offset by gains in retail trade. In August, business inventories had risen by 0.3%, led by a buildup of factory goods.

MERCHANDISE TRADE DEFICIT Wednesday, Nov. 18, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS consensus calls for a small narrowing in the foreign trade deficit in September, to about $8.5 billion, from $9 billion in August. Exports, which dropped for two consecutive months, probably rebounded in September, while imports, which fell 1.3% in August, were little changed.

HOUSING STARTS Thursday, Nov. 19, 8:30 a.m.

Housing starts likely increased to an annual rate of 1.28 million in October, say the mms economists. That would be higher than the 1.26 million pace in September. A gain in construction employment last month, plus continued rebuilding in areas damaged by late-summer hurricanes, suggests that homebuilding picked up last month. Rising mortgage rates, however, pose a renewed danger to the tenuous housing recovery.