The Week Ahead

      Monday, Apr. 7, 3 p.m.EDT -- Consumers likely added $7 billion in credit in 
      February, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS 
      International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. After borrowing slowed in late 
      1996, credit use has bounced back. In January, credit increased by $8.4 
      billion. Revolving debt alone, which includes credit cards, surged by $7.9 
      billion, rising at its fastest pace in more than a year. The advance reflects 
      the rebound in consumer spending.
      Thursday, Apr. 10, 8:30 a.m.EDT -- New claims for state unemployment benefits 
      probably stood at 320,000 for the week ended Apr. 5. Jobless claims have 
      dropped sharply since the end of 1996, evidence of the greater availability of 
      jobs. In the middle of March, the four-week moving average stood at 311,000, 
      the lowest reading in this expansion.
      Friday, Apr. 11, 8:30 a.m.EDT -- The MMS median forecast expects that producer 
      prices of finished goods were unchanged in March. If so, it is just another 
      sign that wholesale inflation is nonexistent: The PPI dropped 0.3% in January 
      and 0.4% in February. Falling food and energy prices contributed to the 
      declines. Excluding food and energy, core prices probably edged up just 0.1% in 
      March, after slipping by 0.1% in February.
      Friday, Apr. 11, 8:30 a.m.EDT -- Retail sales likely rose a healthy 0.5% in 
      March. That would follow sales jumps of 1.5% in January and 0.8% in February. 
      Given the retailing data, real consumer spending probably grew at an annual 
      rate of close to 5% in the first quarter. The March gain is suggested by 
      increases in the BTM/Schroders chain-store sales index and the weekly survey 
      done by LJR Redbook Research. In addition, an early Easter probably pulled 
      apparel sales forward from April into March.
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