Last week’s scheduled economic reporting included readings on inflation, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s speech on U.S. labor markets, and weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims.
Oil Prices Push Inflation Higher in January
Rising oil and gasoline prices drove a jump in January’s consumer price index. Inflation rose 0.30 percent month-to-month, which matched analysts’ expectations. The year-over-year inflation rate rose to 1.40 percent but remained lower than the pre-pandemic annual pace of 2.30 percent. The core inflation rate, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, was unchanged in January.
Some analysts expect stronger inflation throughout 2021 due to the impact of stimulus payments and the potential for covid-19 vaccines. Widespread vaccinations are expected to reduce quarantine requirements and local restrictions on businesses and workplaces.
Fed Chair Doesn’t Expect Lasting Jump in Inflation in Near Term
In remarks made during a speech to the Economic Club of New York, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said he anticipated neither “a large nor sustained” increase in inflation for the near future. Mr. Powell also said that rising prices caused by bursts of spending were not sustainable. “Inflation has been much lower and more stable over the past three decades than in earlier times.” The Fed Chair also observed that “In the 1970s when inflation would go up, it would stay up.”
Mortgage Rates Hold Steady as Jobless Claims Decrease
Freddie Mac reported no change in the average rate of 2.73 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages; the average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped by two basis points to 2.19 percent. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages rose one basis point to 2.79 percent. Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, 0.60 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, and fell to 0.20 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Jobless claims fell last week with 793,000 initial claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 812,000 first-time claims filed. 4.55 million continuing jobless claims were filed last week as compared to 4.69 million ongoing claims filed in the prior week.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings from the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index and Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued. The National Association of Realtors will report on sales of previously-owned homes. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims will also be published.