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     WASHINGTON (MNI) - The following are highlights of forecasts for   
upcoming U.S. economic indicators provided by participants in the MNI   
weekly survey. The comment section presents the key elements behind the 
median forecasts.      
Empire State Index for May (diffusion index)                            
 Tuesday, May 15 at 8:30 a.m. ET                         Actual:        
                 Median        Range                 May18  Apr18  Mar18
 Empire Index    15.4       12.0 to 18.0                --   15.8   22.5
     Comments: The Empire State index is expected to decline slightly   
to a reading of 15.4 in May after falling to 15.8 in April.             
Retail and Food Sales for April (percent change)                        
 Tuesday, May 15 at 8:30 a.m. ET                         Actual:        
               Median         Range                  Apr18  Mar18  Feb18
 Retail Sales  +0.3%      +0.2% to +0.5%                --  +0.6%  -0.1%
 Ex-Mtr Veh    +0.5%      +0.4% to +0.7%                --  +0.2%  +0.2%
     Comments: Retail sales are forecast to rise by further 0.3% in     
April after a strong 0.6% gain in March. Seasonally adjusted industry   
motor vehicle sales slipped in April, but AAA reported that gasoline    
prices rose sharply in mid-April from one month earlier. Retail sales   
are expected to rise 0.5% excluding motor vehicles after 0.2% gains in  
the previous two months. The impact of the Federal income tax cuts and  
stronger consumer confidence may finally appear in the data.            
Business Inventories for March (percent change)                         
 Tuesday, May 15 at 10:00 a.m. ET                        Actual:        
              Median           Range                 Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
 Inventories  +0.1%        +0.1% to +0.3%               --  +0.6%  +0.6%
     Comments: Business inventories are expected to rise 0.1% in March. 
Factory inventories were already reported as up 0.3% in the month, while
wholesale inventories rose 0.3%. The advance report showed a 0.4%       
decline for retail inventories. Taken together, an MNI calculation looks
for a 0.1% increase for business inventories, so the median forecast    
suggests analysts little revision to retail inventories. As for sales,  
factory shipments rose 0.4%, wholesale sales rose 0.3% and the advance  
estimate for retail trade sales was a 0.6% gain, suggesting a 0.4% rise 
for business sales, assuming no revision to the retail trade sales      
Housing Starts for April (annual rate, million)                         
 Wednesday, May 16 at 8:30 a.m. ET                       Actual:        
           Median            Range                   Apr18  Mar18  Feb18
 Starts    1.313m       1.270m to 1.340m                -- 1.319m 1.295m
     Comments: The seasonally adjusted pace of housing starts is        
expected to hold roughly steady at a 1.313 million annual rate in April 
after a strong March gain, as the weather was less favorable than normal
in some parts of the country. The NAHB index slipped to 69 in April from
70 in March, a fourth straight decline, so there is some downside risk. 
Still, as prices rise and inventories remain tight, builders will likely
find it advantageous to boost output. The pace of building permits is   
expected to slow to a 1.350 million pace from the revised 1.379 million 
rate in March.                                                          
Industrial Production for April (percent change)                        
 Wednesday, May 16 at 9:15 a.m. ET                       Actual:        
              Median          Range                  Apr18  Mar18  Feb18
 Ind Prod     +0.6%       +0.1% to +1.0%                --  +0.5%  +1.0%
 Cap Util     78.4%       78.2% to 78.7%                --  78.0%  77.7%
     Comments: Industrial production is expected to rise 0.6% in April  
following solid gains in the previous two months. Factory payrolls rose 
by 24,000 in April and the factory workweek rose to 41.1 hours. However,
the ISM production index fell to 57.2 in the current month from 61.0 in 
the previous month. Utilities production is expected to continue its    
upward trend in the month after a rebound in the previous month, as     
weather was a bit cooler than normal, supporting heat use at a time when
most of the country has normally shut it off. Mining production is      
forecast to rise further after gains in February and March. Capacity    
utilization is forecast to rise to 78.4% from 78.0% in March.           
Weekly Jobless Claims for May 12 week                                   
 Thursday, May 17 at 8:30 a.m. ET                         Actual:       
                 Median         Range                May12  May05  Apr28
 Weekly Claims   215k        210k to 220k               --   211k   211k
     Comments: The level of initial jobless claims is expected to rise  
by 4,000 to 215,000 in the May 12 employment survey week after holding  
steady at 211,000 in the previous week, so the month/month comparison of
survey weeks would be highly favorable for May payrolls. The four-week  
moving average would fall by 4,500 in the coming week as the 233,000    
level in the April 14 employment survey week drops out of the           
calculation, assuming the MNI forecast is correct and there are no      
revisions. This would set another recent low point for the average.     
Philadelphia Federal Reserve Index for May (diffusion index)            
 Thursday, May 17 at 8:30 a.m. ET                        Actual:        
                 Median        Range                 May18  Apr18  Mar18
 Phila Fed       21.5       17.5 to 22.5                --   23.2   22.3
     Comments: The Philadelphia Fed index is expected to fall back to a 
reading of 21.5 in May after a slight rise to 23.2 in April.            
Leading Indicators for April (percent change)                           
 Thursday, May 17 at 10:00 a.m. ET                       Actual:        
                 Median         Range                Apr18  Mar18  Feb18
 Leading Index   +0.4%      +0.2% to +0.5%              --  +0.3%  +0.7%
     Comments: The index of leading indicators is forecast to rise by   
0.4% in April. Positive contributions are expected from lower initial   
jobless claims and higher consumer expectations, offset by a negative   
contribution from lower stock prices.                                           
--MNI Washington Bureau; +1 202-371-2121; email:
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