Market Recap: Mortgage Applications Up, Retail Sales Up, Job Openings Stall

Posted On May 12, 2017

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Mortgage rates trended upward this week, but remain near year-long lows.  Both new purchase and refinance applications increased, after last week’s lack of rate movement.  Job openings remained unchanged from February to March.  Retail sales improved, but were less than expected. 

While the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) lags behind the monthly nonfarm-payroll report, it provides more detailed data.  The JOLTS showed 5.74 million job openings and a small drop in hiring from 5.26 million to 5.25 million. The number of voluntary quits increased by 2.6%, which is a sign of confidence in the labor market.  Employees who are willing to quit typically do so because they are confident in finding another job. 

The weekly Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) survey showed increases in both new purchase and refinance applications.  New purchase applications are up 2.0% week-over-week and refinance applications are up 3.0%.  Last week, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) met and voted to keep rates unchanged.  It is probable that home buyers are continuing to take advantage of low rates while they can.

Retail sales remained sluggish overall, but segments saw increases.  Auto dealers, hardware stores, and e-commerce outlets saw gains, but brick and mortar retailers like Macy’s and Sears saw declines.  Month-over-month, retail sales are up 0.4%.  Analysts are forecasting faster growth in the April to June quarter.

Hawkish signs from Federal Reserve presidents and the firing of FBI Director James Comey has led to some political and economic uncertainty that may have driven rates up.  Even with this week’s increase, average rates remain lower than predictions. 


Sources: Bloomberg, CNBC, MarketWatch, MarketWatch, Mortgage News Daily, Mortgage News Daily