The Week Ahead

      Tuesday, Jan. 27, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Employment costs for civilian workers 
      probably increased 0.8% in the fourth quarter, the same gain posted in the 
      third period, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS 
      International, one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. The small advance would mean 
      that compensation costs rose 3% in 1997, just slightly above the 2.9% growth in 
      1996. However, if the monthly data on hourly wages are any guide, the wage and 
      salary component of the ECI may have increased by at least 1% last quarter, 
      even as benefit costs remained tame. That would push the overall ECI higher. 
      With labor markets tight, compensation costs are likely to post bigger gains in 
      1998, putting the squeeze on profit margins.
      Tuesday, Jan. 27, 10 a.m. EST -- The Conference Board's index of consumer 
      confidence probably slipped to 132 in January, after jumping more than six 
      points in December, to 134.5.
      Wednesday, Jan. 28, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Durable goods orders likely fell 2.3% in 
      December, says the MMS forecast. In November, new bookings unexpectedly jumped 
      4.8%, led by an increase in airplane orders. Excluding aircraft, demand for 
      durable goods dropped in both October and November.
      Friday, Jan. 30 8:30 a.m. EST -- The median MMS forecast projects that real 
      gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 3.5% in the fourth quarter, 
      after a 3.1% advance in the third period. If so, then the economy grew at a 
      robust 3.7% pace for all of 1997. Consumer spending increased moderately last 
      quarter, while foreign trade and housing most likely added some muscle to 
      fourth-quarter output. Inflation, as measured by the GDP price index, probably 
      stood at an annual rate of 1.6% in the fourth quarter, up from 1.4% in the 

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