Mixed Data

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With little fresh news from global central bankers this week, the economic data was the primary influence on mortgage rates. Some reports were positive and some were negative. The net effect was that mortgage rates ended the week slightly lower.

The Fed’s target level for inflation is an annual rate of 2.0%. Tuesday’s release of the core PCE price index, the inflation indicator favored by the Fed, revealed that inflation remains well below this level. In June, core PCE was just 1.5% higher than a year ago, which was the same annual rate as in May. Low inflation is good for mortgage rates, and rates improved on Tuesday.

Aside from the Employment data, one of the most highly anticipated reports each month covers the services sector, which represents more than 75% of the jobs in the U.S. Slower than expected growth in this sector caused mortgage rates to fall on Thursday. The July ISM Services index fell to 53.9, well below the consensus, and the lowest level since August 2016.

Against a consensus forecast of 180K, the economy added 209K jobs in July. Strength was seen in health care, business services, and leisure and hospitality. The unemployment rate declined from 4.4% to 4.3%, which matched May’s reading at the lowest level since 2001.

Looking ahead, the most significant report during a light week will be the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which will come out on Friday. CPI is a widely followed monthly inflation report that looks at the price change for goods and services which are purchased by consumers. Before that, the JOLTS report will be released on Tuesday. JOLTS measures job openings and labor turnover rates and has been described by Fed Chair Yellen as very useful data. In addition, there will be Treasury auctions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

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