A sluggish economy and a spike in foreclosures suggest an interest-rate cut is in order, but a weak currency and creeping inflation suggest a rate hike is in order (rate increases make a currency more attractive vis-à-vis other currencies). What is the Federal Reserve to do?
Clues will be forthcoming in the Fed's Beige Book, to be released on Wednesday. It will likely prove that the Fed's greater concern is inflation, but that could easily change if Friday's consumer price index shows consumer prices rising at an intolerable rate.
Either way, borrowers can expect a spike in rate volatility. Gaming interest rates – an already difficult endeavor – will become that much more difficult in coming weeks. Bankrate.com's survey showed that mortgage rates increased across the board through most of last week, but the survey was released before Friday's employment report, which could just as easily drop rates this week.
So what's the longer-term rate trend that's likely to emerge? Unfortunately, it's impossible to tell at this point because of the schizophrenia of recent economic data releases.Eric P. Egeland