Unemployment edged higher in December with more Americans entering the labor market. Wages ticked up, too.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported U.S. employers added 156,000 new jobs in December, which was below the 175,000 expected. October and November job growth was revised higher by 19,000. In 2016, job growth totaled 2.2 million, down from a gain of 2.7 million in 2015.
The Unemployment Rate ticked higher to 4.7 percent in December. While this might seem negative, it's actually positive because more Americans sought out employment in December.
Average hourly earnings rose from -0.1 percent in November to 0.4 percent in December. In addition, average hourly earnings rose 2.9 percent year-over-year, the fastest pace since June 2009. Wage growth is a welcome sign for American workers, especially for those looking to buy a home.
Home price gains remained solid in November. CoreLogic, a leading provider of consumer, financial and property information, reported that home prices, including distressed sales, rose 7.1 percent from November 2015 to November 2016. Low inventories of homes for sale continued to push prices higher. The recent rise in mortgage rates and the expectation of higher rates in 2017 could slow home price gains in 2017, CoreLogic reported. Home prices are expected to rise 4.7 percent from November 2016 to November 2017.
Home loan rates were able to improve slightly after reaching two-year highs. They are still in historically low territory, though the volatility in the markets that followed the presidential election could continue.
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Forecast for the Week
News on wholesale inflation and Retail Sales highlight a quiet week for economic reports.
Thursday brings the first release with weekly Initial Jobless Claims.
On Friday, the wholesale inflation reading Producer Price Index, Retail Sales and Consumer Sentiment Index will be delivered.
Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve. In contrast, strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart below shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond on which home loan rates are based.
When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving. When Bond prices are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.
To go one step further, a red "candle" means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green "candle" means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes are on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning.
As you can see in the chart below, Mortgage Bonds stopped their downward slide recently and made up some ground.
Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Jan 06, 2017)