Overall, the economic data came in pretty close to expectations last week, and Greece successfully reached a debt deal with private bondholders. With a lack of surprises in the economic news, mortgage rates ended the week nearly unchanged.
While it was a little stronger than expected, the important monthly Employment report had little impact on mortgage rates. Against a consensus forecast of 200K, the economy added 227K jobs in February, and revisions to prior months added an additional 61K jobs. The Unemployment Rate remained at 8.3%, as expected. Average Hourly Earnings, a proxy for wage growth, increased at a 1.9% annual rate. With gains above 200K for the first three months of the year, the recent pickup in job growth and the decline in Jobless Claims reflect solid improvement in the labor market.
Greece took a necessary step along its path to receive a much-needed financial aid package. Private bondholders agreed to the proposed Greek bond swap deal, which will help reduce its debt burden. Without the deal, Greece was at risk of a potentially disastrous full default on its debt, which may have forced it to leave the European Union.
The big news this week will be Tuesday’s Fed meeting. Investors will be trying to determine the likelihood of additional Fed easing. The most significant economic data this week will be the monthly inflation reports. The Producer Price Index (PPI) focuses on the increase in prices of “intermediate” goods used by companies to produce finished products and will come out on Thursday. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), the most closely watched monthly inflation report, will come out on Friday. CPI looks at the price change for those finished goods which are sold to consumers. In addition, Retail Sales will be released on Tuesday. Retail Sales account for about 70% of economic activity. Industrial Production, Consumer Sentiment, Import Prices, Philly Fed and Empire State will round out a busy schedule. In addition, there will be Treasury auctions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
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