The last two weeks have been relatively light ones for economic news. Mortgage rates moved a little higher late last week ahead of Easter weekend, and they reversed that increase during this week. Headlines from Ukraine added a short burst of volatility but had little lasting impact.
Overall, the economic data released this month has been better than expected. After slowing due to unusually severe winter weather, most sectors of the economy appear to be picking up. The economy added jobs at a healthy pace. Retail Sales and manufacturing posted solid gains. This week, Consumer Sentiment jumped to the highest level since July of last year.
Despite the good results this month, however, investors require more evidence that the improvement is sustainable before they will raise their long-term outlook for economic growth. The steady economic outlook over the last several months has helped keep mortgage rates in a fairly narrow range.
One sector which has lagged in its pace of improvement is housing. March Existing Home Sales were roughly the same level as February, which was very close to the consensus forecast. A tight supply of inventory in many regions was one factor holding back sales. Offering potential for future activity, the total inventory of existing homes available for sale rose 5% in March. March New Home Sales showed a sharp drop from February, but this data is extremely volatile month to month.
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