The Week Ahead
Monday, Feb. 7, 3 p.m. EST -- Consumers likely took on $7.9 billion in new debt in December, says the median forecast of economists polled by Standard & Poor's MMS, a unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies. November credit jumped by $15.6 billion, one of the biggest gains on record. The borrowing binge reflects high consumer optimism about the economy as well as the growing wealth effect: Rising stock portfolios help people feel comfortable about high debt loads.
PRODUCTIVITY & COSTS
Tuesday, Feb. 8, 10 a.m. EST -- The S&P MMS survey forecasts that output per hour worked in the nonfarm business sector grew at a strong 4% annual rate in the fourth quarter. That follows an even stronger 5.1% advance in the third quarter. The increase is indicated by the surge in output at the end of 1999. The expected rise would mean that productivity increased by 3.1% for all of 1999, the same healthy pace posted in 1998. Unlike in 1998, however, labor costs in 1999 began to accelerate at yearend. That suggests that unit labor costs grew at an annual rate of about 0.6% in the fourth quarter, or about 1.5% for all of 1999.
Friday, Feb. 11, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Economists and policymakers at the Federal Reserve are watching closely to see if consumers kept spending as robustly in early 2000 as they did in late 1999. The median forecast of the S&P MMS survey expects that retail sales increased a healthy 0.4% in January after jumping 1.1% in November and 1.2% in December. Excluding motor-vehicle purchases, store receipts likely advanced by 0.5% last month, on top of a 1.4% jump in December.