The Week Ahead


Consumers probably added $600 million to their debt loads in October, say economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. A modest gain in nonauto retail sales suggests that revolving credit continued to expand. But that was partially offset by a decline in auto financing, as indicated by weak car-buying in October. In September, installment debt rose by $1.6 billion, the first increase in eight months.

PRODUCER PRICE INDEX Thursday, Dec. 10, 8:30 a.m.

Producer prices of finished goods likely increased by only 0.2% in November, just a bit faster than their paltry 0.1% advance in October. Excluding the volatile food and energy components, prices probably rose 0.2% as well, after they dropped 0.1%. Inflation, especially at the wholesale level, continues to cool. In October, producer prices were rising by only 1.6% over the past year.

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX Friday, Dec. 11, 8:30 a.m.

The overall consumer price index probably rose by 0.3% in November, while the core inflation rate--which excludes food and energy--likely was up by only 0.2% last month. In October, the total CPI increased 0.4%, and the core rate rose 0.5%. But unusually large jumps in the costs of airline tickets, tobacco products, and housing accounted for most of the gains. In general, weak demand is still keeping the lid on inflation.

RETAIL SALES Friday, Dec. 11, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS economists do not expect that consumers started the holiday shopping season with a bang. Retail sales are projected to have risen just 0.4% in November, after a 0.9% surge in October. Excluding car dealers, store receipts probably rose a modest 0.5% last month, after a 0.4% gain in October. That's in line with Johnson Redbook Service's findings, published by brokerage firm Lynch, Jones & Ryan Inc., which show that department-store sales alone rose by a so-so 0.3% in November.

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