The Latest Economic Data Are Mixed

By John S. McClenahen During this week -- the next to last full week before the Nov. 2 presidential and congressional elections -- the most closely watched economic reports will be the consumer price index (due out Oct. 19), housing starts (also due out the 19th), initial unemployment claims (due Oct. 21) and the leading economic indicators (also due Oct. 21). Coming into this week, the most recent economic data are mixed. U.S. manufacturing output declined 0.3% in September, a reversal of gains in July and August, the Federal Reserve reported last Friday. Capacity utilization in manufacturing fell to 76.3% in September from 76.6% in both July and August. Retail sales in September rose 1.5% to $341.3 billion, the Commerce Department reported, more than double the 0.7% increase most analysts expected. The U.S. Labor Department's Producer Price Index for Finished Goods edged up 0.1% in September, compared with a 0.1% decline in August. And the Commerce Department reported last Friday that business inventories at the end of August were at $1.256.4 trillion, up 0.7% from July.

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