There was good news on Friday as Consumer Sentiment rose to 75.3, which is the best level since February of 2011. However, this news was tempered by the rise in oil prices.
On the one hand, high oil prices can be detrimental to the fragile U.S. economy, as consumers have to put more of their discretionary dollars into their gas tanks. High oil prices are also inflationary as the added shipping and material costs apply upward price pressures on producer or wholesale goods. The upward prices either have to be absorbed by the producer, thus hurting profits and the ability to expand or hire; or the added costs get passed onto the consumer.
The silver lining is that the dampening effect on economic growth produces a sluggish economic environment in which bonds (including mortgage bonds, to which home loan rates are tied) thrive. This is an important topic to continue watching in the weeks and months ahead.
Last week, investors and central bankers came to an agreement to provide Greece with 130 billion Euros ($172 Billion) in financial aid. This will help the country fund itself through March and into the future, as long as it institutes economic reform, austerity measures and meets deficit targets.
Between some of the overseas uncertainty being lifted, a lower unemployment rate, and better than expected economic reports, home loan rates have struggled to improve beyond levels seen over the past two weeks.