The Week Ahead


Wednesday, Feb. 7, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Output per hour worked in the fourth quarter probably grew at an annual rate of 2.5%, reports the median forecast of economists surveyed by Standard & Poor's MMS, a unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies. That follows a 3.3% rise in productivity in the third quarter, with a 2.5% increase in total output and a 0.8% drop in hours worked, the largest decline since 1992. Unit labor costs probably rose between 1.5% and 2%, after rising 2.9% in the third quarter.


Wednesday, Feb. 7, 3 p.m. EST -- The S&P MMS survey projects consumers took on $7.8 billion in new debt in December. That follows a gain of $12.9 billion in November. The December forecast is below the monthly average of $11.8 billion in the first eleven months of last year. Although the data have been skewed by new reporting sources, installment credit accumulation might have set a record in 2000. Credit as a percentage of disposable income remains at a peak of more than 21%.


Thursday, Feb. 8, 8:30 a.m. EST -- New filings for state unemployment benefits likely rose to 330,000 for the week ended Feb. 3. Over the past four weeks, jobless claims averaged 336,000. Filings have eased in January after a steady increase since early November, culminating with a 52-week high of 380,000 in the last week of December. The recent decline in claims comes amid a stream of new layoff announcements, including ones from DaimlerChrysler and Lucent Technologies Inc.

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