The Week Ahead

      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.
      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.
      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.
      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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