The Week Ahead
HOUSING STARTS Tuesday, Mar. 19, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Housing starts probably fell back to an annual rate of 1.4 million in February, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Starts posted an unexpected gain in January, rising 4.4%, to a 1.45 million pace. The recent rise in mortgage rates may begin to hold back housing. However, the 4.2% rise in new homes in January suggests buyers may have rushed in early 1996 to lock in lower rates. RETAIL SALES Wednesday, Mar. 20, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Retail sales likely increased a solid 0.9% in February, says the revised MMS forecast. That's suggested by the steep advance in motor vehicle sales and increases reported in the weekly surveys of other retailers. Excluding cars, sales probably rose 0.5% last month. In January, the blizzard kept many shoppers at home: Total sales fell 0.3% while nonauto receipts were flat. BUSINESS INVENTORIES Thursday, Mar. 21, 10 a.m.EST -- Inventories at manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers likely increased by 0.4% in January, after falling 0.5% in December. Factories have already reported a 0.7% gain in their stock levels, in part because the blizzard prevented goods from being shipped out. Business sales probably fell 0.8% in January, reversing the 1% gain in December. Factory sales were down 0.9% in January, and retail sales slipped. FEDERAL BUDGET Thursday, Mar. 21, 2 p.m.EST -- The Treasury Dept. is expected to report a $45 billion deficit for February, forecasts the MMS report. That's bigger than the $38.4 billion recorded in February, 1995. But the federal government is playing catch-up in its outlays after the second shutdown kept workers at home. Also, tax refunds are trailing behind 1995`s pace. Still, the federal budget is on track to total about $150 billion in this fiscal year.
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