The Week Ahead

      Monday, Dec. 5, 10 a.m.  --  Sales of new single-family homes likely fell in 
      October to an annualrate of 685,000, says the median forecast of economists 
      surveyed by MMS International, a unit of McGraw-Hill Inc. Sales in September 
      were 703,000. With mortgagerates up sharply from last year, fewer households 
      can afford to buy a new home. Single-family housing starts fell 7.4% in 
      October, and buildersreport weaker buyer traffic this autumn.
      Monday, Dec. 5  --  Sales of U.S.-made cars and light trucks were probably 
      little changed in November from October's annualrate of 13.1 million, says the 
      MMS survey. Purchases of motor vehicles peaked in the first quarter. And some 
      auto makers are starting to lower their production schedules. General Motors 
      Corp., for instance, announced cuts in the January production of some Cadillac 
      Wednesday, Dec. 7  --  Consumers likely continued to take on more debt in 
      October. The MMS economists project that installment credit grew an additional 
      $10 billion during the month. That's on top of monthly increases averaging 
      $10.9 billion over the past six months. In September, consumers added $10.6 
      billion in debt. Credit cards have always been convenient for big-ticket 
      purchases, but households are now using credit cards for even small items, 
      since plastic is accepted by so many more outlets, such as grocery stores and 
      discount chains. In addition, card users can accumulate such perks as 
      frequent-flier miles andrebates when they say: "Charge it."
      Thursday, Dec. 8, 8:30 a.m.  --  During the week ended Dec. 3, new claims for 
      state unemployment benefits probablyrose to about 350,000, up from 326,000 in 
      the week ended Nov. 19. Filings typically increase in the week after a holiday, 
      and state offices were closed on Nov. 24 for Thanksgiving.

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