The Week Ahead


Thursday, Feb. 11, 8:30 a.m.

Retail sales probably edged up by 0.2% in January, say economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. However, the most pessimistic forecast calls for a 0.5% decline. Store sales had jumped by 1.2% in December, in what was the best holiday shopping season in four years. After a strong finish at the end of 1992, car-buying weakened in January. But the Johnson Redbook Service, published by securities firm Lynch, Jones & Ryan Inc., reports that department-store sales were strong last month, especially along the East Coast. Excluding car sales, the consensus view is that store receipts probably increased by a moderate 0.4% in January, after rising 0.6% in December.


Friday, Feb. 12, 8:30 a.m.

Producer prices of finished goods probably advanced by 0.2% in January, the same mild gain as in December, says the MMS report. Excluding food and energy costs, producer prices likely increased by just 0.2%, after a 0.3% rise in December. In 1992, producer prices, excluding food and energy, grew by only 1.9%--the smallest rise in producer core inflation in nine years. The outlook for inflation: Weak demand and foreign competition will keep downward pressure on industrial-price increases throughout 1993 and into 1994.


Friday, Feb. 12, 10 a.m.

The MMS economists expect that inventories stored at manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers probably were unchanged in December, after rising by 0.2% in each of the previous two months. But the burst in retail sales in December suggests that inventories may have been drawn down a bit at yearend. Indeed, the strong performance by retailers suggests that overall business sales increased by a sturdy 0.8% in December, after rising 0.4% in November. The combination of flat or falling stock levels and rising sales indicates that the ratio of inventories to sales slipped to its lowest reading in 11 years.

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