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Inflation, Housing Data Lead Busy Economic Week

The week will be heavy with economic data and speeches by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and number of Fed governors and bank presidents.

Monday, May 12

The week will begin with the release of the US budget, which for April is expected to be in surplus of $160 billion, down from $177.7 billion in March.

"Despite a weakening economy we expect the impact of earlier filing by taxpayers expecting a refund and a still healthy economy in 2007 should be enough to allow the Treasury to post a budget surplus of at least $150 billion in April," said economists from Lehman Brothers.

Tuesday, May 13

April import prices are expected to increase by 1.7 percent, compared to 2.8 percent in the previous month. Retail sales are expected to have continued their sluggish trend in April, falling by 0.1 percent, compared to 0.2 percent in the previous month.

"Retail sales for April will likely be buffeted by cross-currents, with lower automotive sales suppressing the result, but higher gasoline prices working in the opposite direction," said Joshua Shapiro of MFR.

Excluding autos, retail sales are expected to increase 0.3 percent following a 0.1 percent increase in the previous month. Business inventories in March are expected to have increased 0.5 percent compared to 0.6 percent in the previous month.

"We believe firms experienced some unintended stock building in the first quarter as growth slowed more abruptly than expected," said economists from Lehman Brothers.

Business sales are expected to have recovered from February's 1.1 percent decline by increasing 1 percent in the month of March.

The consumer price index, a measure of inflation, is expected to have increased 0.3 percent in April, the same rate as in the previous month.

Economists say CPI will continue to be boosted by high food and energy prices. Core CPI, which excludes these highly volatile costs, is expected to have increased 0.2 percent in April, the same rate of change as in the previous month.

"Core goods prices should remain subdued because of weakness in the housing and auto sectors, while core service prices should be up moderately, with rents and medical care doing the work," said economists from Credit Suisse.

Thursday, May 15

The Empire State survey of manufacturing conditions is expected to decline in April to 0.00 from 0.63.

The number of individuals filing first-time claims for unemployment in the week ended May 10 is expected to total 370,000, above the 365,000 claims reported the previous month.

The number of those continuing to file claims for unemployment insurance is expected to have increased to 3.035 million in the week ended May 3, up from 3.020 million in the previous week.

"Recent jobless claims data reflect a still weak labor market, consistent with our forecast of meager, though positive, economic growth in the first half of 2008," said economists from Barclays Capital. "We expect claims readings to hover at these elevated levels in the near time," they said.

Industrial production is expected to dip in April by 0.3 percent following a 0.3 percent gain in the previous month. "Industrial production is poised to plummet in April, as labor disruptions in the automotive industry drive a collapse in factory output," said Michael Gregory of BMO Capital Markets.

A pulldown in industrial production is expected to have drawn down capacity utilization in April, to 80.1 percent from 80.5 percent.

The May Philadelphia Fed survey of manufacturing conditions is expected to improve to -20.0 from -24.9. The National Association of Homebuilder's Survey of homebuilder sentiment,is expected to improve to a still weak 21, from 20 in the previous month.

"Similar to April's survey, the weakness should be concentrated in the index of present conditions," said economists from Lehman Brothers, who cited falling home sales and prices. But they say conditions are expected to improve as cancellation rates have edged lower and calls for legislative action to stem foreclosures "may have provided builders with a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dreary outlook."

Friday, May 16

The number of homes on which builders broke ground in April is expected to havetotaled 940,000, down from 947,000. Permits for construction are expected to bedown in the month, to 915,000 from 927,000.

"We expect to see further deterioration in new home construction in hecoming months as the imbalance between new home supply and demand continues to deteriorate," said economists from Credit Suisse.

Preliminary University of Michigan consumer sentiment is expected to dropslightly to 62.5 in May from 62.6 in the previous month.

"Soaring oil prices and still strong food prices worldwide suggest further declines in confidence are inevitable as cash-strapped consumers struggle to reconcile plunging asset prices and worsening labor market prospects with soaring costs of essential goods such as food and gasoline," said economists from BNP Paribas.

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