Fed Holds Steady
Week of May 5th, 2017
Wednesday’s Fed meeting was viewed as slightly negative for mortgage rates. The success of Macron in holding his lead in the polls for the upcoming French election also was unfavorable. Friday’s Employment report had little impact. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week a little higher.
As expected, the Fed made no change in the federal funds rate at Wednesday’s meeting. There also was no change in the language describing the Fed’s policy for maintaining a steady level for its large portfolio of Treasuries and MBS. According to the statement, Fed officials see the risks to the outlook for economic growth as “roughly balanced,” and they expect inflation to climb to its 2.0% target over the medium term. Fed officials think that the weak economic growth seen early this year likely was “transitory.” Some investors had hoped that the weaker data over the last couple of months might cause the Fed to consider slowing its pace of tightening. The statement provided no indication of this, however, which was negative for mortgage rates.
The pro-EU candidate in Sunday’s French Presidential election, Macron, cleared his largest remaining hurdle on Wednesday when he performed well in a debate. Over the past week, he has held a lead of roughly 60% to 40% over the anti-EU candidate, Le Pen. After the debate, investors grew less concerned that France could exit the European Union (EU). They reacted by shifting back to riskier assets such as stocks, and away from safer assets such as mortgagebacked securities, causing a slight increase in mortgage rates.
Friday’s important Employment report came in right on target and had little effect on financial markets. Against a consensus forecast of 190K, the economy added 211K jobs in April. The unemployment rate declined from 4.5% to 4.4%, below the consensus forecast, and the lowest level since May 2007.
The Week Ahead
Looking ahead, the final round of the French Presidential election will take place on Sunday. In the U.S., the big day will be Friday with the Retail Sales and CPI reports. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of economic output in the U.S., and the retail sales data is a key indicator. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), a widely followed monthly inflation report, looks at the price change for goods and services which are purchased by consumers. In addition, there will be Treasury auctions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday...
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