Business Week Index: The Week Ahead

      Tuesday, Feb. 7, 10 a.m.  -- Output per hour worked in the nonfarm sector 
      probably was unchanged or fell slightly in the fourth quarter. Although 
      economic output seems to have grown robustly, so did total hours worked as 
      indicated by surging job growth and the longer workweek. The expected weakness 
      at yearend means that productivity grew by about 2% in 1994 after a 1.5% 
      increase in 1993. In the factory sector, productivity is still going strong, 
      with a likely advance of about 1.5%, at an annual rate, in the fourth quarter. 
      In the third quarter, nonfarm productivity grew 3.1%, with manufacturing 
      increasing 3.5%. Unit labor costs in the nonfarm sector probably rose at an 
      annual rate of about 3% last quarter, after no change in the third period, but 
      factory unit costs most likely slid for the fifth consecutive quarter. The 
      slack showing of productivity at the end of 1994 will rev up the debate over 
      the structural uptrend in productivity in the U.S.
      Tuesday, Feb. 7  -- Consumers probably added about $10.5 billion in new debt in 
      December, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS 
      International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. The expected increase would be a 
      bit below the $11.6 billion in October and $12.9 billion in November. The hefty 
      accumulation of new borrowing suggests that the holiday shopping season was 
      significantly financed by credit cards.
      Friday, Feb. 10, 8:30 a.m.  -- Producer prices of finished goods probably 
      increased by 0.4% in January, says the MMS forecast. Most likely, suppliers 
      used the first of the year to pass along price markups. Excluding food and 
      energy, core prices likely also increased by 0.4% in January. In December, both 
      the total PPI and the core index edged up only 0.2%. However, the Labor Dept. 
      is scheduled to release new seasonal factors to the PPI data that may change 
      the December increases.
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