The Week Ahead

      Tuesday, Mar. 18, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Housing starts for February are expected to 
      have risen to an annual rate of 1.42 million, based on a survey of forecasts 
      compiled by MMS International, a unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies. January 
      starts had risen to 1.35 million, after plunging 11% in December. Building 
      conditions remain favorable, and the rebound in January starts was especially 
      strong in the important single-family sector.
      Wednesday, Mar. 19, 8:30 a.m.EST -- The consumer price index for February is 
      expected to have risen by a tame 0.2% for both the total index and the core 
      index, which excludes energy and food, according to the MMS survey. Both the 
      total and core indexes had risen a scant 0.1% in January. The overall index 
      should remain in check in coming months, since oil prices have fallen $5 per 
      barrel since the beginning of the year, but analysts will keep a close eye on 
      the core index for any sign that rising labor costs are putting pressure on 
      Wednesday, Mar. 19, 10 a.m.EST -- The inflation-adjusted weekly pay of 
      production workers is expected to have risen sharply in February, reflecting 
      the month's 2.6% jump in average weekly earnings and the expected 0.2% rise in 
      the CPI.
      Thursday, Mar. 20, 8:30 a.m.EST -- The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services 
      is expected to have remained at $10 billion in January, says the MMS poll, 
      about even with $10.3 billion in December. Analysts expect both exports and 
      imports to edge up.
      Friday, Mar. 21, 2 p.m.EST -- The Treasury Dept. is expected to report a 
      February budget deficit of $45.5 billion, compared with $44.3 billion in 
      February, 1996. So far this fiscal year, the deficit is ahead of last year's 
      total, but last year's deficit at this time was held down by the budget impasse 
      in Congress and the government shutdown.