The Week Ahead


Wednesday, Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Housing starts probably stood at an annual rate of 1.68 million in January, says the median forecast of economists surveyed by Standard & Poor's MMS, a unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies. The projected number would be down slightly from the 1.72 million homes started in December. For all of 1998, construction was begun on 1.62 million homes, the most in 11 years.


Wednesday, Feb. 17, 9:15 a.m. EST -- Industrial output likely rose just 0.1% in January after increasing 0.2% in December. Electricity use probably continued to rebound after unseasonably warm weather pushed down demand in October and November. The operating rate for all industry probably averaged 80.6%, from 80.9% in December.


Thursday, Feb. 18, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Producer prices for all finished goods likely increased 0.1% in January, after rising 0.4% in December. Excluding food and energy, core prices probably also edged up 0.1% after jumping 1% in December, the result of a 30.7% spike in cigarette prices.


Friday, Feb. 19, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Consumer prices for all goods and services probably rose 0.2% in January following a 0.1% gain in December, says the S&P MMS median forecast. Falling gasoline prices offset increases for other items, especially tobacco. Excluding food and energy, core consumer prices probably increased 0.2% in January, after rising 0.3% in December.


Friday, Feb. 19, 8:30 a.m. EST -- The U.S. foreign trade deficit for goods and services probably widened in December, to $16 billion, from $15.5 billion in November. Exports in December are expected to have regained a bit after falling 2% in November. Imports, up 0.4% in November, likely continued to rise.

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