Tuesday, March 21, 2006

With both food and energy costs moderating, the closely watched Consumer Price Index posted a minuscule 0.1% increase in February after having jumped 0.7% in January, the Labor Department reported March 16. Excluding the volatile energy and food sectors, core inflation was also slight, rising by just 0.1% in February. The decline in inflationary pressures is important because the Federal Reserve has signaled it will look at economic reports before deciding whether to continue its current course of interest rate increases.

On March 15, the Federal Reserve said the economy was headed into spring with solid momentum, despite a cooling housing market after a red-hot, five-year stretch of record sales. The Fed said a strengthening labor market is translating into modest wage gains for the average worker throughout most of the 12 Federal Reserve Districts. Fed officials closely monitor wages -- as well as the prices of goods and services -- for insight into the nation's inflation climate.
U.S. housing starts fell 7.9% in February to a 2.120 million annual pace from 2.303 million units in January, the Commerce Department said March 16. Starts fell 23.5% in the Northeast, 11.2% in the South and 10.4% in the Midwest, but rose 7.9% in the West.

Spurred by weak auto sales, retail sales fell a larger-than-expected 1.3% in February, the first decline in retail demand since August, the Commerce Department said March 14. Analysts had forecast a 0.8% dip.
(Information Courtesy of Louise Rose, ELB Mortgage Brokers)


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