Few economic reports were released last week due to the Labor Day Holiday. The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book Report, which documents anecdotes shared with the Fed by its regional business contacts. A job openings report, weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s survey of mortgage rates was also released.
Fed’s Beige Book: Approaching Election Dampens Business Growth
According to the Federal Reserve’s survey of business contacts within its 12 districts, November’s election is causing business owners to take a “wait and see” position regarding expansion plans. Commercial real estate contacts in several Fed districts cited modest projections for sales and construction for the second half of 2016. The Bank of Canada supported Fed contacts’ view of modest growth; it characterized U.S. business growth as “less certain.”
Analysts review the Beige Book report for indications of how the Fed may adjust its monetary policy including whether or not to raise the target federal funds rate. The Beige Book report did not reveal any compelling evidence for the Fed to raise rates before year-end, but Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a recent statement that economic conditions were strengthening and favored a rate hike before year-end.
November’s election will likely delay any rate hike until December. Fed policymakers have repeatedly said that a combination of economic trends, current readings and news reports contribute to decisions relating to interest rates and other monetary policy issues.
Job Openings Rise, New Jobless Claims Drop
July job openings rose from June’s reading of 5.60 million openings to 5.90 million openings to hit an all-time high. New jobless claims fell from 263,000 new claims to 259,000 new claims. The Labor Department also reported that hires increased from 5.17 million to 5.23 million in June. These readings are further indications of strengthening job markets and general economic growth.
Mortgage Rates Lower
Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week; the average rate for a 30-year mortgage was two basis points lower at 3.44 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.76 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points lower at 2.81 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent respectively.
Next week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on retail sales, national inflation and consumer sentiment.