The Week Ahead

      Monday, Dec. 15, 9:15 a.m. EST -- Industrial output likely increased a strong 
      0.6% in November, on top of a 0.5% jump in October. That's the median forecast 
      of economists surveyed by MMS International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. 
      The average operating rate for industry probably edged up to 84.5%, from 84.3% 
      in October.
      Tuesday, Dec. 16, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Housing starts probably fell slightly to an 
      annual rate of 1.49 million in November. In October, starts unexpectedly rose 
      1.4%, to a 1.53 million pace. Strong job growth and income gains are fueling 
      housing demand.
      Tuesday, Dec. 16, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Consumer prices for all goods and services 
      likely increased 0.2% in November, the same gain posted in October. Similarly, 
      core prices, which exclude food and energy, likely rose 0.2% in November, the 
      same as in October.
      Tuesday, Dec. 16 -- The Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee will 
      likely hold short-term interest rates steady. Unlike the unanimous MMS survey 
      before the Nov. 12 meeting, however, the forecast for no rate hike is divided. 
      At least one economist expects the Fed to raise the federal funds rate by a 
      quarter point, to 5.75%.
      Thursday, Dec. 18, 8:30 a.m. EST -- The trade deficit was likely little changed 
      in October, from September's $11.1 billion gap. Both exports and imports 
      probably rose slightly. In September, exports fell 0.7%, while imports 
      increased 1.2%. Trade has been a drag on growth even before the Asian crisis 
      threatened to curtail U.S. exports, and it will likely hurt growth in 1998.
      Thursday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. EST -- The Treasury Dept. is likely to report a 
      budget deficit of $27.9 billion for November, says the MMS survey. That's $10 
      billion less than the gap of November, 1996.
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