The Week Ahead

HOUSING STARTS

Tuesday, Apr. 20, 8:30 a.m.

Housing starts probably fell to an annual rate of 1.19 million in March, from 1.21 million in February, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. The blizzard in mid-March, however, along with the steep decline in the number of construction workers for the month, suggests that the drop could be much greater. In fact, because of weather problems during most of the first quarter, homebuilding was likely a big drag on the winter's economic growth. A renewal of the bond rally, which is pushing long-term rates lower, and stronger job and income growth means that home buying should rebound in the spring.

FEDERAL BUDGET

Wednesday, Apr. 21, 2 p.m.

The federal government will probably report a deficit of $40 billion for March, down from the $50.7 billion recorded in March, 1992. Tax payments are running higher than last year, in part because of better corporate profits and because mortgage refinancings have cut homeowners' interest deductions. Stronger tax receipts suggest that the federal deficit for all of fiscal 1993 may come in below the Administration's projection of about $330 billion, which includes Clinton's proposed stimulus package. The 1992 deficit hit a record $290.2 billion.

DURABLE GOODS ORDERS

Friday, Apr. 23, 8:30 a.m.

The MMS economists project that new orders taken by durable-goods manufacturers were probably flat in March. The National Association of Purchasing Management has already reported that its own index of orders was little changed in March. Falling demand for aircraft likely offset gains elsewhere. New orders fell 2.3% in January and then increased 2.4% in February. The weather likely held back shipments in March, resulting in a small gain in the backlog of unfilled orders. If so, that would be the fourth consecutive rise in unfilled orders. The backlog had fallen for more than a year before that.