Monday, January 12, 2015

Impressive 2014 Job Gains 

Concerns about the pace of global economic growth caused bond yields around the world to decline this week. The US economic data released this week had little impact. Mortgage rates ended at the lowest levels in over a year.

The US labor market finished an impressive 2014 on a high note. The economy added 252K jobs in December, which was a little more than expected, and upward revisions to prior months added another 50K. For 2014, a total of 2.9 million jobs were added, the most since 1999. The Unemployment Rate fell from 5.8% to 5.6%, the lowest since June 2008. 

Despite the labor market strength, though, the level of wage growth in 2014 was a little disappointing. Wages were just 1.7% higher than one year ago. Fed officials hope to see annual wage growth of 3% to 4%, which would be in line with past economic recoveries.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced this week that beginning around the end of this month it will reduce by 0.50% the annual mortgage insurance premium (MIP) it charges on new loans. Since MIP is calculated like an interest charge, the reduction will feel to some home buyers like mortgage rates suddenly fell by 0.50%. This change will make home ownership more affordable for many people, especially first-time buyers.

Next week, the JOLTS report, measuring job openings and labor turnover rates, will be released on Tuesday. Retail Sales, which account for roughly 70% of economic activity, will come out on Wednesday. The Producer Price Index (PPI), which focuses on the increase in prices of "intermediate" goods, is scheduled for Thursday. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), the most closely watched monthly inflation report, will be released on Friday. CPI looks at the price change for finished goods. Industrial Production, Philly Fed, and Consumer Sentiment will round out a busy week. In addition, there will be Treasury auctions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

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