Trade Deficit Shrinks
Following recent week's packed schedule, there was far less major economic news last week. The global economic data that was released was generally a little stronger than expected. This was negative for mortgage rates, which ended last week a little higher.
The biggest surprise in last week's economic news came from Friday's data on imports and exports. The December Trade Deficit declined to the lowest level since January 2010. Exports were higher than expected, and imports were smaller than expected. Since the first reading for fourth quarter GDP used an estimate of the December trade data, the actual results will almost certainly lead to an upward revision. The release of fourth quarter GDP showed the first decline since December 2009, but economists now predict that it will be revised to show an increase of 0.5%. Stronger growth is great news for the economy, but it raises inflationary pressures and is unfavorable for mortgage rates.
The housing market data released last week also contained good news for the economy. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the number of improving housing markets expanded for the sixth straight month in February. The index considers the levels of housing permits, employment and home prices to determine improvement. The latest report shows that 259 of 361 metro regions are improving (roughly 70%), up from just 12 regions in September 2011.
- The Fed's Evans predicted that Unemployment will not decline to 6.5% until mid-2015
- The European Central Bank (ECB) made no change in rates
- German PMI economic growth data rose to the highest level in 10 months
- The Treasury will auction $66 billion in 3-yr, 10-yr, and 30-yr securities next week
The most significant economic report this week will be Retail Sales on Wednesday. Retail Sales account for about 70% of economic activity. Import Prices will also be released on Wednesday. Industrial Production and Consumer Sentiment will come out on Friday. There will be Treasury auctions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.