Overview: Over the past week, investors remained focused on the incoming economic data, the vaccine rollout, and government stimulus spending. Mortgage markets continued to be volatile, but rates ended the week with little change.
Two key reports from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) are closely watched by investors each month, and the latest data contained mixed results. The ISM Manufacturing Index rose to 60.8, above the consensus forecast of 59. This was up from a low of 41.5 in April 2020 and matched the highest level since 2004. By contrast, the ISM Services Index declined to 55.3, well below the consensus forecast of 58.5, reaching the lowest level since May. Readings above 50 indicate an expansion, meaning that both sectors are growing. However, manufacturing has been steadily rebounding in nearly every area, while certain services, such as hospitality, are still constrained by the pandemic.
The reduced economic activity resulting from the pandemic caused a significant decline in inflation last year, which was one of the factors responsible for record-low mortgage rates. However, investors are now worried that the trend may have reversed due to improving economic conditions. In January, the core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Price Index was 1.5% higher than a year ago, above the consensus forecast and up from an annual rate of increase of 1.4% last month. The core PCE Price Index is the inflation indicator favored by Federal Reserve officials, and, as such, it more heavily influences monetary policy than other inflation measures.
Looking ahead, the monthly Employment Report will be released on Friday. These figures on the number of jobs, the unemployment rate, and wage inflation will be the most highly anticipated economic data of the month. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) will come out on March 10. CPI is a widely followed monthly inflation report that looks at the price change for goods and services.
ISM Manufacturing Index