Last week’s economic reporting included a speech and press conference by Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, data on pending home sales and sales of new homes, and the University of Michigan’s monthly reading on consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims were also published.
Fed Chair: Rate Hikes Above 0.25 Percent May be Needed to Ease Inflation
Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said that the Fed is willing to move beyond its recent 0.25 percent rate hike to control inflation. In a speech made to the National Business Association for Business Economics, Mr.Powell said, “We will take necessary steps to ensure a return to price stability. In particular, if we conclude that it is appropriate to move more aggressively by raising the federal funds rate by more than 25 basis points at a meeting or meetings, we will do so.” Mr. Powell clarified that the Fed is willing to raise rates as needed to control inflation. He predicted that the Fed would raise its key interest rate to 1.90 percent this year and 2,8 percent in 2023.
Mortgage Rates Rise Again as Sales of New Homes Fall
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week as rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose 26 basis points and averaged 4.42 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages rose by 24 basis points to 3.63 percent. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose by 17 basis points to 3.36 percent. Discount points averaged 0.80 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
The combined impact of rising home prices and mortgage rates caused sales of new homes to fall in February. 772,000 new homes were sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis as compared to expectations of 805,000 sales and January’s reading of 788,000 new homes sold.
Initial jobless claims fell last week to 187,000 claims filed as compared to expectations of 210,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 215,000 first-time jobless claims filed. Continuing jobless claims fell to 1.35 million filings as compared to the previous week’s reading of 1.42 million jobless claims filed on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.
The University of Michigan’s final Consumer Sentiment Index for March showed consumer skepticism about current economic conditions. The March index reading was 59.4 as compared to the expected reading of 59.7, which matched February’s index reading for consumer sentiment.
This week’s scheduled economic reporting includes readings from Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, The Federal Housing Finance Administration’s House Price Index, and data on public and private-sector jobs growth. The national unemployment rate will be published along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims.