Business Week Index: The Week Ahead

HOUSING STARTS
      Tuesday, Apr. 18, 8:30 a.m.
      March housing starts are expected to have risen to an annual rate of 1.35 
      million, up from 1.32 million in February. That's the median projection of a 
      survey of economists by MMS International, a unit of McGraw-Hill Inc. Mild 
      weather, which also inflated March construction employment, will buoy the 
      starts number. Weak demand and downbeat builders' surveys suggest little 
      strength this spring, though.
      
      INTERNATIONAL TRADE
      Wednesday, Apr. 19, 8:30 a.m.
      The MMS survey expects the February balance of trade in goods and services to 
      post a deficit of $10.2 billion, less than January's $12.2 billion gap. Exports 
      are expected to rise, but they will be held back by another steep drop in 
      shipments to Mexico. Imports will also edge lower, according to the survey, but 
      by less than exports. The trade deficit is on track to exert a strong negative 
      influence on first-quarter growth in real gross domestic product.
      
      UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS
      Thursday, Apr. 20, 8:30 a.m.
      New weekly claims for jobless benefits appear to be moving into the 
      340,000-to-350,000 range for the week of Apr. 15. The four-week average, which 
      has been trending higher recently, stood at 342,500 at the end of March--the 
      most in nine months. That rise reflects at least a slight easing in labor 
      market conditions as retail sales and industrial output have slowed.
      
      FEDERAL BUDGET
      Friday, Apr. 21, 2 p.m.
      The MMS survey expects the U.S. Treasury to report a March deficit of $40 
      billion, up from $32.3 billion in March of last year. Even so, the federal 
      deficit is on track to finish the year some 10% to 15% below last year's 
      deficit of $203.3 billion. Although delays in tax refunds may be boosting 
      receipts temporarily, the deficit may yet come in below the Congressional 
      Budget Office's projection of $176 billion.
      
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