Fed officials disagreed at last month’s meeting on when they would be ready to hike rates, according the minutes of the March 17-18 meeting. While “several participants” predicted that a strengthening economy will warrant a rate hike in June, “a couple” of officials do not believe conditions will justify a rate hike till 2016. Others said that the Fed should wait till later this year. The minutes showed that officials had seen improvement in the labor market and were “reasonably confident” that inflation will pick up, but there is no “simple criteria” to know when that will happen.
The service sector grew at a slightly slower pace in March, as the ISM non-manufacturing index slipped to 56.5%. On the upside, a measure of new orders rose, while a measure of employment rose to the highest level since last July.
Wholesale inventories rose .3% in February, however sales slipped .2% after falling 3.6% in January; at February’s sales pace, it will take wholesalers 1.29 months to clear their shelves.
Consumer credit rose in February at an annual rate of 5.6% for a $15.5 billion gain, despite a drop in credit card debt. Credit card declined at a 5% pace as Americans trimmed their balances – marking the biggest decline since April 2011; at the same time non-revolving debt, like car loans and student debt, grew 9.4% – marking the fastest pace since February 2013.
On a positive note, job openings hit a 14-year high in February, rising to 5.13 million open positions and surpassing 5 million for the first time since January 2001, according to the JOLTS report. However, the number of people actually hired fell for the second month in a row, with 4.9 million hires. For every open job, there were 1.69 unemployed people.