As expected, the Fed left key interest rates unchanged. New economic data covering prices, industrial production, jobless claims, and inventories did not offer any dramatic surprises. Equity markets were up on the week, while treasury bond yields fell. The dollar weakened against nearly all major currencies.
Markets reacted positively to the Fed’s key interest rate decision and reduction of their forecast for 2016 rate hikes to two from four. The Nasdaq composite index increased one percent on the week, while the S&P 500 climbed 1.35 percent. Ten-year treasury bond yields fell to 1.88 percent on Friday.
Monthly CPI figures for February showed a year over year consumer price level increase of one percent, compared with a 1.3 percent increase in January. Energy and transportation costs fell more in February than January. Energy costs dropped 12.7 percent over their February 2015 level, while transportation costs fell 3.6 percent over the one-year period. Healthcare, food, housing, and apparel prices all increased over the previous year’s level. Healthcare costs were up 3.5 percent.
New weekly jobless claims, at 265,000, showed no sudden increase, further supporting the so far solid labor market data. January data on manufacturing and trade inventories and sales, from the U.S. Census Bureau, showed that sales were down 1.1 percent over their January 2015 level, while inventories were up 1.8 percent over the same period, pushing the inventories to sales ratio to 1.4.
Over the past week, the U.S. dollar weakened against all major currencies except for the Egyptian pound, which was devalued by 14 percent against the dollar during the week. The dollar fell roughly two percent or a bit more against the Euro, Yen, and Canadian Dollar, and nearly a percent and a half against Pound Sterling and Swiss Francs. The dollar fell against the Yuan by nearly three quarters of a percent on Friday.