The Week Ahead
HOUSING STARTS 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. CONSUMER PRICE INDEX 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 prices. REAL EARNINGS 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. TRADE BALANCE 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. FEDERAL BUDGET 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.
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