April Showers the News With Economic Data
Housing Starts fell 2.6 percent from March to April, the Commerce Department reported. This was the second straight month of declines and the lowest point since November 2016. Housing Starts were up just 0.7 percent over April 2016. Building Permits in April also were down 2.5 percent from March but up 5.7 percent from April 2016.
Strong Housing Starts have a ripple effect on the economy, boosting jobs related to new housing. New construction also provides relief to homebuyers frustrated by low housing inventory and increasing home sale prices. April numbers were disappointing.
April job growth, on the other hand, had some nice surprises.
Job Growth, Retail Sales Rebound
Job growth rebounded after a dismal March. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 211,000 jobs were created in April, above the 180,000 expected. March was revised lower to 79,000 new jobs. The Unemployment Rate fell to 4.4 percent, the lowest level in 10 years.
After two sluggish months of sales, consumers opened their pocketbooks in April, ramping up spending at auto dealers, hardware stores and e-commerce outlets. April Retail Sales rose 0.4 percent from the 0.1 percent in March, which was revised up from -0.3 percent. Increased consumer spending could boost economic growth in the second quarter, as it makes up two-thirds of the nation's economic activity.
Inflation Reports Bring Mixed Results
Inflation news was mixed in April. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) was up 0.2 percent from March, in line with estimates. The year-over-year number declined to 2.2 percent from 2.4 percent in March. When stripping out volatile food and energy numbers, the Core CPI saw a 0.1 percent gain in April. Year-over-year Core CPI also slipped to 1.9 percent from the +2 percent that has been the norm over the past 12 months.
Meanwhile, wholesale inflation, as measured by the Producer Price Index (PPI), jumped 0.5 percent in March. Year over year, PPI surged 2.5 percent, the largest increase since the 12-month period ending February 2012.
Inflationary pressures can reduce the value of fixed investments, like Mortgage Bonds, and the home loan rates tied to them. April's news that the year-over-year CPI readings declined were Bond-friendly elements.
At this time, home loan rates remain in attractive territory. Let me know if you have any questions about rates or loan products. I'd be happy to help.