The Week Ahead

      Monday, Dec. 16, 9:15 a.m.EST  --  Output at factories, mines, and utilities 
      likely bounced back by 0.5% in November, after dropping by a similar amount in 
      October. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS 
      International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies, and is suggested by the gains 
      in factory payrolls and overtime. The median forecast also expects that the 
      average operating rate for all industries increased to 83% last month, from 
      82.7%. Factory output dropped in October because the strike at General Motors 
      Corp. in Canada caused a shortage of auto parts. As a result, some GM plants in 
      the U.S. closed, and vehicle production dropped off by 8.1%.
      Tuesday, Dec. 17, 8:30 a.m.EST  --  Ground was probably broken on new housing 
      units totaling an annual rate of 1.39 million in November. That would be a 
      small uptick from the 1.37 million housing starts in October. Starts fell a 
      steep 6.1% in September, and another 5.1% in October.
      Tuesday, Dec. 17  --  The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve 
      Board will meet to set monetary policy for the next six weeks. All of the MMS 
      economists expect that the Fed will leave the federal funds rate unchanged at 
      5.25%. The last policy move was in January, 1996, when the Fed cut a quarter of 
      a percentage point from the fed funds rate, the overnight rate for interbank 
      Thursday, Dec. 19, 8:30 a.m.EST  -- The trade deficit for goods and services 
      likely narrowed in October, to $10.3 billion. In September, the trade gap 
      widened, to a larger-than-expected $11.3 billion. The MMS economists forecast 
      that exports were unchanged after falling 1.4% in September. Imports probably 
      fell after increasing for three months in a row. A deterioration in the U.S. 
      foreign trade gap subtracted more than one percentage point from economic 
      growth in the third quarter.

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