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Retail Sales Remain Strong; Mortgage Rates Unchanged

November 15, 2017

 

Overview: There were no significant surprises in market-related news over the past week. The major economic data came in on target, and the news on tax overhaul plans caused little reaction. Mortgage rates ended the week nearly unchanged.

After a huge hurricane-related spike in September, Wednesday’s report showed that retail sales continued to increase in October. Retail sales rose 0.2% from September, which was close to expectations, following the enormous monthly increase of 1.9% seen in September. Retail sales were an impressive 4.6% higher than a year ago. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of economic activity in the U.S., and the retail sales data is a key indicator. However, investors have been reluctant to give much weight to the data from September or October due to the difficulty in determining the impact of the hurricanes. Going forward, these effects will diminish.

 

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a widely followed monthly inflation report that looks at the price change for goods and services. The data for October, which was released on Wednesday, matched the expected levels. Investors generally look most closely at core CPI, which excludes food and energy, to get a sense of the underlying trend in inflation. In October, core CPI was 1.8% higher than one year ago, up from an annual rate of 1.7% in September. These readings remain below the Fed’s target level. 
 
Week Ahead 

Looking ahead, the New Residential Construction report (also known as Housing Starts) will be released on Friday. The Existing Home Sales report will come out on November 21. The Durable Goods report, an important indicator of economic activity, will be released on November 22. The minutes from the November 1 Fed meeting will also come out on November 22. These detailed minutes provide additional insight into the debate between Fed officials and have the potential to move markets. In addition, any changes in proposals for tax overhaul could influence mortgage rates.

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