Employers add 148,000 new jobs in December – The Department of Labor Statistics reported that 148,000 new jobs were added in December. That fell short of the 190,000 that economists expected. The unemployment rate remained at 4.1%, a 17-year low. With such low unemployment, investors were not at all concerned with fewer jobs added than expected, as so many jobs have been added over the past 5 years. Average hourly wages grew a modest 2.5% year-over-year in December, which was the same as in November. Although not the wage gains expected in an economy with such a low unemployment rate, 2.5% is higher than we have seen for several years. This was seen as a bright spot in the jobs report.
Stocks begin 2018 higher as rally continues – Stock markets all climbed again to record highs with the Dow breaking 25,000 for the first time and then rising almost another 300 points. The Dow rose 577 points this week, a 2% increase. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the week at 25,295.87, up from last week’s close of 24,719.22. The S&P 500 closed the week at 2,743.15, up from 2,673.51 last week. The NASDAQ closed at 7,136.56, up from 6,903.39 last week.
Treasury Bond Yields – The 10-year Treasury bond closed the week at 2.47%, up from 2.40% last week. The 30-year treasury yield ended the week at 2.81%, up from 2.74% last week. We watch bond rates because mortgage rates follow bond rates. We expect mortgage rates to be slightly higher next week.
Mortgage Rates – The January 4, 2018 Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Survey reported that the 30-year fixed mortgage rate average was 3.95%, about the same as last week’s 3.99%. The 15-year fixed was 3.38%, down from 3.44% last week. The 5-year ARM was 3.45%, also almost unchanged from 3.47% last week.