Consumer price report due tomorrow


MAIN EVENT: Peering just around the nearest bend and over the next hill has become a thankless task, as more and more economists perceive trying times ahead. Pessimism about inflation has been on the mark. Last week's report on wholesale prices showed a 1.3 percent upward bump for August, the sharpest since a 1.9 percent rise in January. The inflation rise was primarily the result of a 9.5 percent leap in energy prices, spurred by the Persian Gulf confrontation. The next inflation hurdle arrives tomorrow, with the consumer price report for August.

*Watch for: Another pratfall for the economy, with the consumer price index rising just less than 1 percent. Most analysts are predicting that the consumer inflation rise will be less than the jump in wholesale prices, because areas untouched by the surge in energy prices should show only mild increases.

*Next up: Today, Chevrolet shows off its 1991 models at a preview in Detroit.

*More events: The merchandise trade deficit for July will be reported tomorrow by the Commerce Department; also, Ford displays its '91 models in Detroit. Housing starts for August will be reported Wednesday, and Chrysler offers its new models in Detroit.

*Markets: Stock prices sank last week as the Dow Jones industrial average fell below the 2600 level. At week's end, the Dow had lost 55.44 points, closing at 2564.11.

*Bear alert: With more and more Wall Street seers pointing to a bear market, some investors are asking what stocks are safe. Among groups being touted are consumer goods firms, utilities, drug companies and those that sell food. Not everyone believes such categories will be havens. "We dare anyone to find us a single stock group that handled the sharp declines of 1969-70 or 1973-74 well," said James B. Stack, who publishes the InvesTech letter from Whitefish, Mont. "In a true bear market -- and this feels like one -- there's no place to hide but on the sidelines."

*Dollar's stumble: The dollar's swoon has contributed to the weakness in stock and bond prices, as foreigners shy away from U.S. investments. The dollar ended last week at 136.45 Japanese yen, near a 13-month low, and at 1.5695 German marks, barely above an all-time low.

*Running for cover: Small investors are pulling out of mutual funds that specialize in high-yield junk bonds, says Money magazine, noting that a net $97 million was withdrawn from the $1.3 billion Kemper High Yield Fund last month.

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