Has the oil crash officially bottomed out?
The dirt cheap gas prices we've been enjoying as consumers over the past two months have started creeping back up again, averaging $2.20 per gallon nationwide. Still, this is a far cry lower than the average price over most of 2014.
The slight rise in the cost of crude oil, reaching above $60 per barrel, coincided with a stronger week for stock markets. The Standard and Poor's 500 index hit a record high Friday, in part due to the boost in oil stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average nearly crept up to its all-time high set in December 2014, right over 18,000.
Investors were also encouraged by German economic growth and news that Greece, plagued by debt problems, could reach a deal with creditors. When stocks climb upward, investors typically put less money into "safer havens" such as bonds, which generally indicates interest rates also climbing.
Positive jobs news in January
Stock markets have also responded favorably to stronger jobs reports for January. More than 257,000 new jobs were added to U.S. payrolls in the first month of 2015, and more importantly, wages increased by 0.5 percent on average to $24.75 per hour. Stagnant wage growth has been a sticking point for the gradually recovering economy.
Federal Reserve officials will continue to closely monitor a broad range of economic trends before taking action to raise short-term interest rates. Until then, mere whispers of a move by Fed leaders could send mortgage rates higher. Currently, average mortgage rates sit more than half a point lower than a year ago this week.