It was a quiet week with no major surprises. Mortgage rates ended the week slightly lower.
The most significant economic data released this week was the inflation data. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), the most closely watched monthly inflation report, looks at the price change for finished goods and services. Friday’s release revealed that inflation has continued to rise in recent months. Core CPI, which excludes the volatile food and energy components, was 2.4% higher in July, up from an annual rate of increase of 2.3% in June. This matched the consensus forecast and was the highest level since September 2008.
By contrast, the Producer Price Index (PPI) focuses on the increase in prices of “intermediate” goods used by companies to produce finished products, which investors view as a little less indicative of the level of inflation in the economy as a whole. On Thursday, Core PPI was 2.7% higher in July, down from an annual rate of increase of 2.8% in June, and a little lower than expected. Since inflation is negative for bond yields, this report was mildly favorable for mortgage rates.
The JOLTS report measures job openings and labor turnover rates. Fed officials and investors value this data to help round out their views of the strength of the labor market. In June, there were 6.66 million job openings, which was close to the record levels seen in April. There were only 6.56 million people who reported that they were looking for work that month. It is rare to see more job openings than people seeking work. A large number of workers also willingly left their jobs. This is viewed as a sign of labor market strength, since people usually quit only if they expect that they can find better jobs.
Looking ahead, Retail Sales will be released on Wednesday. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of all economic activity in the U.S., and the retail sales data is a key indicator of growth. Industrial Production, another important indicator of economic growth, also will come out on Wednesday. Housing Starts will be released on Tuesday.
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