The Week Ahead


Thursday, Feb. 24, 8:30 a.m.EST -- Orders taken by durable goods manufacturers probably fell back by 1.3% in January, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Standard & Poor's MMS, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Bookings had soared 5.5% in December, boosted by orders for capital goods including aircraft. As a result, the backlog of unfilled orders is heading back up into record territory. The high level of demand indicates that the capital-equipment sector is not yet slowing. That suggests that companies continue to invest in machinery to lift productivity in a labor-short economy. However, the data do not separate which orders are from overseas and which are from domestic customers.


Friday, Feb. 25, 8:30 a.m.EST -- The Commerce Dept. will take a second look at the fourth-quarter economy. The S&P MMS median forecast is that real GDP growth will be revised up to a 6% annual rate, from the previous 5.8% pace. The economy grew 5.7% in the third quarter. Consumer spending at yearend was probably stronger than first thought, and inventory accumulation may be revised higher. The economists do not expect any change in the economy-wide inflation rate. It likely stayed at 2%.


Friday, Feb. 25, 10 a.m.EST -- Existing homes probably sold at an annual rate of 5 million in January. If so, that would be the lowest selling rate since May. However, despite rising mortgage rates, housing demand remained solid in the second half of 1999. Strong income growth and gains from stock portfolios are keeping homebuying strong. In December, 5.06 million homes were resold.

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