Overview: While there was a wide range of economic and political news over the past week, none of it caused much reaction in the overall economic state of the country. As expected, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate by 25 basis points, and Congress passed a bill that will fund the government through December 22. The major economic data contained no significant surprises. Mortgage rates ended the week with little change.
The big question heading into Wednesday’s Fed meeting was how quickly rates will rise in coming years. The new forecast calls for a slightly faster pace of rate hikes than the previous targets that were released after the September meeting. With the unusually high level of turnover at the Fed in 2018, investors will be keeping a close eye on these predictions for next year.
The most recent inflation data showed that core inflation continued to hold steady at low levels. In November, the core consumer price index (CPI) was just 1.7% higher than a year ago, the same annual rate seen in October. This was down from an annual rate of 2.3% in January.
Friday’s Employment Report was viewed as neutral for mortgage rates. A small upside surprise in job gains was offset by a minor miss in wage growth. In November, the economy added 228,000 jobs, a little above the consensus forecast of 190,000. The unemployment rate was flat at 4.1%, matching expectations. Wages were 2.5% higher than a year ago, slightly below the consensus for an annual growth rate of 2.6%.
Looking ahead, the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting will take place on Thursday, which could influence U.S. mortgage rates. In the U.S., the Retail Sales report will be released on December 14, Housing Starts on December 19, and Existing-Home Sales on December 20. News on tax reform or government funding also could influence mortgage rates.