The Week Ahead
INTERNATIONAL TRADE Wednesday, Jan. 21, 8:30 a.m. EST--The foreign trade deficit for all goods and services likely widened in November to $10.1 billion, from October's $9.7 billion. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Exports, which jumped 2.4% in October, probably remained at their record level of $80 billion, but imports likely increased for the fifth consecutive month. Trade probably added to economic growth in the fourth quarter. But problems in the Commerce Dept.'s seasonal-adjustment process plus a drop in merchandise exports headed to Southeast Asia means that the trade deficit will likely widen quite substantially in the first quarter of 1998, subtracting from growth. BEIGE BOOK Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2 p.m. EST--The Federal Reserve Board's roundup of regional economic activity will be released in advance of the first monetary-policy meeting of 1998, scheduled for Feb. 3 and 4. The financial markets examine the Beige Book for insight into concerns among policymakers. In addition to the usual anecdotes on retail activity, housing, wage pressures, and labor shortages, this latest Book is likely to contain information on whether the Asian financial crisis is starting to hit U.S. businesses. HOUSING STARTS Thursday, Jan. 22, 8:30 a.m. EST--Housing starts probably slipped to an annual rate of 1.51 million in December. That follows three straight gains, including a 0.8% rise in November, to a 1.53 million pace. TREASURY BUDGET Friday, Jan. 23, 2 p.m. EST--The Treasury Dept. will probably report a surplus of $17 billion in December, says the MMS survey. That's a bit less than the $18.5 billion posted in December, 1996. The U.S. government had a deficit of only $22 billion for fiscal 1997 that ended in September, and Washington is now wrangling over how to spend a projected budget surplus.
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