The Week Ahead

      Wednesday, Sept. 6 -- Sales of domestically made cars and light trucks probably 
      stood at an annual rate of 12.3 million in August, according to the median 
      forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, one of the McGraw-Hill 
      Cos. Although some auto makers will disclose their sales earlier, the data for 
      total sales will have to wait until others, including Ford Motor Co., report on 
      Sept. 6. The expected August sales pace would be a rebound after the year's 
      steady decline in vehicle purchases. In July, sales fell a steep 6.3%, to a 
      pace of just 11.9 million, even though many carmakers offered rebates and other 
      incentives. The sales downtrend lifted auto inventories and caused a drop in 
      production, which has accounted for two-thirds of the drop in factory output 
      since March.
      Thursday, Sept. 7, 8:30 a.m. -- New filings for state unemployment benefits 
      during the week ended Sept. 2 will probably fall to about 310,000. Claims had 
      picked up in July, going above 400,000 in the second week. The rise partly 
      reflected auto-plant shutdowns, which pushed up filings in that month. But 
      jobless claims have fallen back since then, with only 348,000 in the week ended 
      Aug. 19. Still, claims remain at a high level, given the tightness of the labor 
      Friday, Sept. 8, 4 p.m. -- The MMS survey forecasts that consumers probably 
      took on $9.5 billion more in installment debt in July than they paid off. That 
      would not be much different from the $9.6 billion added in June, but the 
      increases in both months are much slower than the $13.1 billion averaged in the 
      three months ended in May. The July slowdown is suggested by the 0.1% drop in 
      retail sales overall and the weakness in car purchases in particular. The 
      recent surge in borrowing has lifted the ratio of installment debt to 
      disposable income to 18.5% in June, near the record peak of the late 1980s. 
      Revolving debt, which includes credit cards, is leading the runup.
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