December 19th, 2017
Last week’s economic reporting included readings on inflation, core inflation and the Post-meeting statement of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee. Fed Chair Janet Yellen also gave a press conference; weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.
Inflation Rises in November
U.S. inflation rose by 0.30 percent to 0.40 percent in November; October’s reading was 0.10 percent and November’s reading met analysts’ expectations. Core Consumer Price Index readings for November posted a gain of 0.10 percent, which fell short of the expected reading and October’s reading of 0.20 percent. Core CPI readings are less volatile as they do not include volatile food and energy sectors.
FOMC Statement: Fed Raises Target Rate
The post-meeting statement of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee cited strong economic signs in its decision to raise the target federal funds range by 0.25 percent to 1.25 percent to 1.50 percent. The Committee indicated that it expects inflation to hold steady in the near term and to stabilize closer to the Fed’s goal of two percent annually in the medium term.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference after the FOMC statement was released. She cited strong labor markets and low unemployment as signs of healthy economic conditions. The Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and stable pricing has not been met due to lagging inflation. The Federal Reserve’s goal of 2 percent annual inflation fell short at 1.60 percent year-to-date. Job growth was strong with job growth expanding at a monthly average of 170,000 jobs over the past three months.
The Fed expects the inflation to achieve its 2 percent goal in 2019; unemployment is expected to remain at or near its current rate of 4.10 percent. This was good news as the expected exit of aging workers will increase in coming years as baby-boomers retire. Ms. Yellen affirmed her intention to aid in a smooth transition for the Federal Reserve as incoming Chair Jay Powell prepares to take over in February.
Mortgage Rates, Mixed, Weekly Jobless Claims
Fixed mortgage rates averaged one basis point lower last week with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.93 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.36 percent’ the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose one basis point to 3.36 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Analysts said that lenders expected the Fed to raise rates and so factored in an increase of long term loan rates over time.
New Jobless claims dropped by 11,000 last week to 225,000. Analysts had expected 235,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 236,000 new claims.