The Week Ahead

PRODUCTIVITY AND COSTS

Tuesday, Aug. 10, 10 a.m.

Output per hour worked in the nonfarm sector likely fell at an annual rate of 1.5% in the second quarter, after dropping by 1.8% in the first period. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. Last quarter, total hours worked probably rose at about a 4.1% annual pace, while nonfarm output, as indicated by the gross domestic product, grew by less than 2%. If the forecasters are right, it would be the first two-quarter drop in productivity in more than two years. The efficiency slump, along with a rise in compensation, probably means that unit labor costs grew at an annual rate of about 5%, the same as the first-quarter pace.

PRODUCER PRICE INDEX

Thursday, Aug. 12, 8:30 a.m.

Producer prices of finished goods were likely unchanged in July, after falling 0.3% in June. Lower energy prices offset increases elsewhere. Excluding food and energy, producer prices probably rose 0.2% in July, after falling 0.1% in June.

RETAIL SALES

Thursday, Aug. 12, 8:30 a.m.

Weak car buying probably meant retail sales increased little in July, says the MMS survey. But excluding cars, receipts probably rose a respectable 0.4%, despite a drag in shopping caused by the floods in the Midwest and the heat wave in the East. In June, total sales advanced 0.4%, and 0.2% excluding cars.

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX

Friday, Aug. 13, 8:30 a.m.

Consumer prices likely edged up 0.2% in July, as inflation continues to moderate. In June, prices were unchanged from May. The expected July increase means the yearly inflation rate would dip below 3% for the first time in 18 months.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES

Friday, Aug. 13, 10 a.m.

Business inventories probably fell by 0.1% in June, after rising 0.2% in May. Strong car buying last quarter helped to clear out car dealers' lots.

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