Overview: Over the past week, the major economic data was weaker than expected nearly across the board regarding the labor market, inflation, services, and manufacturing. As a result, mortgage rates finished the week lower.
The Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Price Index is the inflation indicator favored by the Federal Reserve. In February, core PCE, which excludes the volatile food and energy components, was up 4.6% from a year ago, slightly below the consensus forecast, and down from an annual rate of 4.7% last month. This annual rate of increase remains far above the Fed's target level of 2%. Fed officials have been warning that the inflation battle will be challenging, with wins and losses along the path. The Fed is likely to maintain tight monetary policy until inflation returns to levels close to its target.
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report is an important indicator of the strength of the labor market. At the end of February, there were 9.9 million job openings, far below the consensus forecast and the smallest number since April 2021. A lower level of openings reflects a weaker labor market, as there is less need for companies to raise wages to hire enough workers with the necessary skills. As a result, the outlook for future inflation declined after the report, which was positive for mortgage rates.
Two other significant economic reports released this week from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) also revealed larger than expected declines, suggesting weaker economic growth. The ISM Services Index fell to 51.2, the lowest level since December, and the ISM Manufacturing Index dropped to 46.3, the weakest since May 2020. Also notable, the prices paid components of the reports, which are inflation indicators, posted sharp declines, which was additional good news for mortgage rates.
Core PCE (annual % change)
April 7 — Employment Report
April 12 — Consumer Price Index (CPI)