Last week's scheduled economic releases included reports on job openings, retail sales and consumer confidence in addition to usual weekly releases on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. The details:
According to the U.S. Labor Department, job openings were down 2.70 percent in October to a reading of 5.38 million as compared to September's reading of 5.50 million job openings and the all-time high reading of 5.67 million job openings in July. October's reading was the third highest since the recession ended in 2009.
Analysts said that a gap between job skills sought by employers and job skills applicants bring to the table continues to affect hiring, but fewer job openings may indicate that this gap is closing. Prospective home buyers view healthy job markets as a confidence booster in their decisions to buy a home. The Fed also monitors job openings as part of its decision making on U.S. monetary policy. All eyes will be on the Fed's Federal Open Market Committee meeting set for this week, as members are expected to raise the federal funds rate. If the Fed raises rates, mortgage rates will also rise.
Retail sales rose in November to 0.20 percent from October's reading of 0.10 percent growth.
Retail sales excluding the automotive sector rose by 0.40 percent against expectations of an 0.20 percent increase and October's reading of 0.10 percent. This information is consistent with typical increases in sales during the holiday shopping season
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise
Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates rose across the board last week; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose two basis points to 3.95 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.19 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose four basis points to 3.03 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60, 0.50 and 0.50 percent respectively.
New jobless claims rose to 282,000, which exceeded expectations of 270,000 new jobless claims and the prior week's reading of 269,000 new jobless claims filed. Last week's reading was the highest since the week of July 4, but also represented the 40th week that new jobless claims were below a benchmark of 300,000 new claims.
Employment figures typically show volatility during the holiday season. Analysts researching trends in jobless claims generally prefer the four-week rolling average of new jobless claims as it evens out volatility shown week-to-week. The four-week reading for new jobless claims increased by 1500 new claims to 270,750 new claims filed
Analysts' eyes and ears will closely monitor the Fed's Federal Open Market Committee statement set for this week. Fed policy makers are expected to raise the federal funds rate. If the Fed raises rates, mortgage rates will also rise. Fed Chair Janet Yellen has scheduled a press conference to be given after the FOMC statement. Other scheduled economic reports include Housing Starts, the Wells Fargo/NAHB Housing Market Index and the Consumer Price Index, which tracks inflation.