Last week’s scheduled economic reporting focused on inflation with monthly and year-over-year readings on overall and core inflation. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell was confirmed for a second term as Federal Reserve chair. The University of Michigan released its monthly survey on consumer sentiment and weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims were also released.
Inflation Rises in December; Nears Fastest Growth Pace in 40 Years
Year-over-year inflation rose to a pace of seven percent in December and approached its fastest growth rate in 40 years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Analysts expected year-over-year inflationary growth of seven percent as compared to November’s pace of 6.80 percent. Month-to-month inflation slowed to
0.50 percent as compared to November’s month-to-month growth rate of 0.80 percent.
Housing costs, food, and automotive sectors drove inflation in December. Shortages of computer chips used in vehicles slowed production and increased demand for vehicles. New car prices rose by one percent and used-car prices rose by 3.50 percent month-to-month.
Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and fuel sectors, rose by 5.50 percent year-over-year in December and surpassed the expected reading of 5.40 percent that was based on November’s core inflation rate of 4.90 percent. Rents rose by 0.40 percent for the third consecutive month. Food prices rose by 0.50 percent month-to-month and costs for clothing and furniture also rose.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell was confirmed for a second term and addressed the Fed’s plans for slowing inflation. Mr. Powell said, “The economy no longer needs or wants the very highly accommodative policies we’ve had in place to deal with the pandemic and its aftermath.”
Energy prices fell by 0.40 percent in December and decreased for the first time since April.
Mortgage Rates Rise. Jobless Claims Mixed
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates as the average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose by 23 basis points to 3.4
Initial jobless claims rose last week with 230,000 first-time claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 207,000 initial claims filed. Analysts expected first-time claims to decrease to 200,000 initial claims filed. Ongoing jobless claims fell to 1.60 million continuing claims filed as compared to the previous week’s reading of 1.75 million ongoing jobless claims filed.5 percent; rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages rose 19 basis points and averaged 2.62 percent. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose 16 basis points to 2.57 percent. Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index for January reported lower consumer enthusiasm for current economic conditions with an index reading of 68.8 as compared to the expected reading of 70.0 and December’s index reading of 70.6.
This week’s scheduled economic reporting includes readings on housing markets and sales of previously-owned homes. Readings on building permits issued and housing starts will be released along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims.