business

Business Week Index: The Week Ahead

INSTALLMENT CREDIT
      Tuesday, Mar. 7   Consumers probably added about $9 billion more to their debt 
      burdens in January. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS 
      International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. Installment credit had soared 
      through much of 1994, with a peak of $15.2 billion added in August. So, debt as 
      a percentage of disposable income rose by a full percentage point, hitting 
      17.8% by yearend. But in December, debt grew by a relatively modest $7.4 
      billion, and the expected gain in January may signal that households are 
      pulling back on their use of credit cards as they also moderate their spending. 
      In fact, the addition to revolving credit, which encompasses credit cards, 
      slowed sharply in December compared with the previous two months.
      UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS
      Thursday, Mar. 9, 8:30 a.m.  Initial claims for state unemployment benefits 
      probably fell back to around 325,000 for the week that ended on Mar. 4. Filings 
      had jumped to a 349,000 pace in the week of Feb. 17, one of the highest levels 
      in the past year.
      EMPLOYMENT
      Friday, Mar. 10, 8:30 a.m.  The MMS median forecast for nonfarm payrolls calls 
      for a solid increase of 240,000 in February, almost twice the 134,000 new jobs 
      created in January. However, the range of employment projections is quite wide, 
      from a small 101,000 new jobs to a huge 350,000. In 1994, nonfarm payrolls 
      expanded by almost 3.5 million, but higher interest rates and a slower economy 
      mean that job growth won't be nearly as fast this year. The MMS survey also 
      calls for a February gain of 25,000 new factory jobs, on top of 35,000 new 
      hires in December and 39,000 jobs in January. The unemployment rate, which 
      ticked up to 5.7% in January from 5.4% in December, is expected to slip 
      slightly, to 5.6%. That's still low enough to generate fears about wage 
      pressures and inflation.
      
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