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Feb. 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM
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Economic reports for the week

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Stock markets took a break and there were no government economic reports Monday -- Presidents' Day.

There are no major government reports scheduled for release on Tuesday, either.

The National Association of Home Builders on is scheduled to release its monthly business confidence index Tuesday. The index has been trending upward for a half a year.

On Wednesday, the Department of Commerce is scheduled to release its January report on housing starts. Economists have predicted a decline from an annual rate of 954,000 in December to 925,000 in January. Building permits, indicating construction starts one and two months ahead, are also expected to drop in Wednesday's report

The U.S. producer price index for January is expected Wednesday. The annual rate of 1.3 percent for December is expected to rise to 1.4 percent for January. Core prices, which exclude energy and food prices, are expected to slide from 2 percent in December to 1.6 percent in January.

On Thursday, Markit Economics is slated to release its February Purchasing Manager's Index, which is expected to drop slightly but still show U.S. manufacturing is growing at a slow pace.

A report on the U.S. Consumer Price Index for January is expected Thursday. The annual inflation rate for core prices is expected to drop slightly in the report from 1.9 percent to 1.8 percent.

Weekly jobless benefit claims that come out on Thursdays are expected to correct upward. First-time claims for state benefits tracked by the Labor Department fell sharply in the previous week. Consequently, economists expect them to rise from 341,000 to 355,000.

The Conference Board's leading index on Thursday is expected to show a 0.2 percent gain in January after a 0.5 percent gain December. Existing home sales numbers on Thursday, released by the National Association of Realtors, is expected to slide from an annual rate of 4.94 million in December to 4.9 million in January.

Canadian: IMF loan not solution in Egypt

CAIRO, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A proposed International Monetary Fund loan to Egypt will not solve its economic problems, the president of a Canadian research center said.

Borrowing money is not necessarily what is needed to assist the Egyptian economy, David Malone, head of Canada's International Development Research Center, told Ahram Online on Sunday.

"International institutions cannot be a substitute for internal decision-making," said Malone, visiting in Cairo.

Malone made the comments in response to plans by the IMF to lend Egypt $4.8 billion to aid its economy. The Egyptian government views the loan as a vital move to boosting the country's financial system, the website said.

"The real issue is that economic management is missing from the political discourse; day-to-day politics seems to be the current priority," Malone said. "Egypt is in desperate need for economic management."

Malone's organization is planning to provide funds for a number of agricultural research programs and programs on creating jobs, environmental preservation and anti-sexual harassment awareness in Egypt, Ahram Online said.

Many households have no retirement plan

NORTHBROOK, Ill., Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Almost half of U.S. households with earnings of $50,000 per year or less have no retirement plan, an Allstate Financial survey found.

The survey, which polled 1,000 adults Dec. 15-19, found 46 percent of respondents from households with modest earnings did not have any retirement plan. In comparison, 89 percent of respondent in households earning $75,000 or more per year indicated they had a retirement plan, Allstate Financial said.

Despite the disparity, 91 percent of all respondents indicated they were confident they could manage their own finances. In addition, 42 percent of parents indicated they were "very confident" about paying for an education for their children and 40 percent indicated they were very confident about being able to afford a new car.

An even greater percentage of respondents -- 47 percent -- indicated they were confident about affording a new home, the survey found.

The survey had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

China seeks to increase grain output

BEIJING, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- China says it plans to increase grain output by putting 1.67 billion mu (111.27 hectares or 276.6 million acres) of additional land under farming this year.

Agriculture Minister Han Changfu said different regions in the country will take advantage of their agricultural features to increase the acreage of high-yield crops, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Han called on agricultural departments at all levels to increase subsidies for farmers and take steps to reduce grain output losses from unfavorable factors, such as weather-related disasters.

Weather forecasters have said a lack of rainfall could result in a spring drought. Taking note of that, the agriculture ministry is encouraging earlier planting this year and putting more young laborers to work, the report said.

Raising grain output and increasing farming subsidies are the focus of this year's first official government document under the country's new leaders.

China's grain output rose 3.2 percent year-on-year to a record 590 million tonnes (metric tons), the ninth straight year of growth, Xinhua said. A metric ton is about 2,204.62 pounds.

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