The economic data released over the past week was generally better than expected. Strength was seen in retail sales, the labor market, and consumer sentiment. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week a little higher, but they remain near the best levels of the year.
After a slow start to the year, Friday's report on retail sales went a long way to increase optimism about stronger economic growth during the second quarter. April retail sales, excluding the volatile auto component, jumped 0.8% from March, which was far more than expected. It was the largest monthly gain in nearly a year. The results for March also were revised higher.
Despite what appeared to be a weak report on jobless claims, this week's labor market data was encouraging. A spike in jobless claims was seen, but this was due to a strike at Verizon. Nice gains were seen in the JOLTS report, which measures job openings and labor turnover rates. The JOLTS report helps to provide a broader picture of the performance of the labor market. Job openings in March increased to levels which were very close to record highs. The "quits rate" also was at levels consistent with a healthy labor market. Employees are more likely to voluntarily leave their jobs if they are confident that they will find a better job.
Looking ahead, Housing Starts, Industrial Production, and the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a widely followed monthly inflation report, will come out on Tuesday. CPI looks at the price change for goods and services which are sold to consumers. The Fed Minutes from the April 27 meeting will come out on Wednesday. These detailed minutes provide additional insight into the debate between Fed officials and have the potential to significantly move markets. Existing Home Sales will be released on Friday.