NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Last week’s disappointing jobs report has experts scrambling for answers. It looks like hopes for an accelerating economic recovery were a bit premature. Then again, maybe this was just a bump in the road.
What’s it all mean for ordinary folk socking money away for retirement, shopping for mortgages – just trying to make sound financial decisions?
The key takeaway: If you’re generally happy with your financial setup, it probably doesn’t make sense to do anything drastic, at least not until the situation is clearer.
While the experts talk Treasuries, we have the scoop for you on what a lackluster jobs report will mean for the average investor this month.
The monthly employment report showed only about 120,000 jobs created in March, about half the number in each of the preceding three months. But some pros think unusually warm weather in January and February stole some hiring that normally takes place in March – construction and landscaping jobs, for instance.
And one month’s numbers don’t make a trend. Overall, December through March looked pretty good. It will take two or three more months to get a sense of whether the recovery is stalling or strengthening.
Still, the March jobs report underscores the fragility of the recovery, and that could help to keep interest rates low longer than many experts had expected. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had said the Fed would keep short-term rates at zero through 2014, but growing numbers of experts had begun to predict recently that a heating economy would force the Fed to raise rates sooner to head off inflation. Now it looks like Bernanke might have been right.
This is good news for borrowers. Mortgage rates may remain at today’s extraordinary lows for some time. So there’s probably no need to rush out to buy a home to beat an increase. If you worry that home prices could drop a bit more, you can probably hold off buying for a few months to see if they appear to have hit bottom.
At the same time, there’s probably no reason to postpone a refinancing, as mortgage rates just can’t go much lower.
Things are trickier for income-oriented investors. In the days since the jobs numbers came out, many experts have talked about how this is good news for high-quality bonds like U.S. Treasuries.