The French election results relieved some economic and political uncertainty, and the investor reaction was slightly negative for mortgage rates. The economic data released over the past week contained few surprises and had little impact. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week a little higher.
As the polls predicted, the pro-EU candidate, Macron, was the victor in Sunday's French Presidential election. Investors had held concern that if his opponent, Le Pen, had won, the future of the European Union (EU) would be at risk. With their concerns eased by the election results, investors shifted back to riskier assets such as stocks, and away from safer assets such as mortgage-backed securities, causing a small increase in mortgage rates.
Fed officials have said that they plan to raise the federal funds rate two more times this year if the economy performs as expected. Recent labor market data suggests that the economy remains on track with Fed forecasts. Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed solid job gains in April and a decline in the unemployment rate to the lowest reading since 2007. A separate report from the BLS released on Tuesday called Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) revealed that the ratio of jobless people to job openings fell to just 1.25 in March, which was the lowest level since 2001. The JOLTS data also indicated that the number of people who felt confident enough to quit their jobs in March remained at a high rate. A higher “quit” rate generally reflects optimism about the ability to find another job. Fed Chair Yellen has said that she considers the JOLTS report to be very valuable in judging the strength of the labor market.
Looking ahead, Retail Sales and Consumer Price Index (CPI) will be released on Friday. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of economic output in the U.S., and the retail sales data is a key indicator. The CPI, a widely followed monthly inflation report, looks at the price change for goods and services which are purchased by consumers. After that, Housing Starts and Industrial Production will be released on May 16.