The Week Ahead

      Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2 p.m.EST -- The Federal Reserve Board will release its 
      report on regional economic activity as seen by its district banks. The Beige 
      Book is prepared in advance of the Fed's upcoming policy meeting on Mar. 25. 
      Now that Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has publicly wondered whether worker 
      insecurity is beginning to fade, Fed watchers will be especially interested in 
      Beige Book reports of regional labor shortages and wage gains.
      Thursday, Mar. 13, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Retail sales probably increased by a healthy 
      0.5% in February, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by 
      MMS International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Excluding autos, sales 
      probably also advanced 0.5%. In January, sales were surprisingly strong: Total 
      purchases increased 0.6%, while non-auto buying was up 0.4%.
      Friday, Mar. 14, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Inventories held by manufacturers, 
      wholesalers, and retailers likely rose 0.2% in January, says the MMS report. 
      That follows a 0.1% decline in December.
      Friday, Mar. 14, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Producer prices for finished goods probably 
      rose just 0.1% in February, even after falling food and energy prices caused a 
      0.3% decline in the PPI in January. Excluding the food and fuel sectors, core 
      prices likely rose 0.1% in February after no change in January.
      Friday, Mar. 14, 9:15 a.m.EST -- Output at the nation's factories, mines, and 
      utilities probably edged up 0.3% in February, after no change in January, 
      forecasts the MMS survey. That's suggested by the increase in production 
      reported by the National Association of Purchasing Management. Capacity 
      utilization rates for all industry likely averaged 83.4% in February, up 
      slightly from 83.3% in January.
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