The Week Ahead


Tuesday, Aug. 18 -- The Federal Reserve Board's Federal Open Market Committee will meet to set monetary policy for the next six weeks. No economist among those surveyed by Standard & Poor's MMS, a unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies, expects a change in short-term interest rates. The Fed's target for the federal funds rate has been 5.5% since March, 1997.


Tuesday, Aug. 18, 8:30 a.m. EDT -- Consumer prices likely increased 0.2% in July, says the S&P MMS median forecast, after rising 0.1% in June. The pattern is the same for prices excluding food and energy items: Core prices probably rose 0.2% in July, following a 0.1% gain in June.


Tuesday, Aug. 18, 8:30 a.m. EDT -- The foreign trade deficit for goods and services was probably little changed in June from May's record high of $15.7 billion. The S&P MMS economists expect that exports, which have fallen in five of the last seven months, rebounded slightly, while imports, up 0.5% in May, continued to expand.


Wednesday, Aug. 19, 8:30 a.m. EDT -- Housing starts probably fell back to an annual rate of 1.59 million in July, after surging 5.6% in June, to a 1.61 million pace. Even with the expected decline, starts would be some 9% higher than their level of a year ago. Homebuilding remains one of the strongest sectors of the economy, buoyed by healthy consumer finances, skimpy housing inventories, and low mortgage rates.


Friday, Aug. 21, 2 p.m. EDT -- The U.S. Treasury is likely to announce a budget deficit of $22 billion in July, forecasts the S&P MMS survey. That would be less than the $25.6 billion recorded in July, 1997. Washington's budget is expected to be firmly in the black when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

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