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10 Things To Know About Online-And-Offline Marketing This Week

GeoMarketing’s Link Picks of the Week:

Top Stories of the Week:

5. Think With Google: Why Voice Assistants Are Resonating With Baby Boomers

Even brands that cater to older demographics can benefit from developing a voice strategy.

4. GroundTruth Expands Cost-Per-Visit Ad Format With Jack In The Box

“When someone enters our restaurant, we know they are going to make a purchase, so the main priority is to simply drive those visits,” says Jack In The Box CMO Iwona Alter.

3. Big Data, Big Ideas: Verve Execs Forecast Location’s Impact On ‘Smart Packaging,’ Connected Cars, Beacons

“CMOs should be focusing on partnerships that emphasize first-party, clean and protected third-party, and even second-party data,” says Verve CMO Julie Bernard.

2. How Starbucks’ 20,000 Square Foot Innovation Center Will Bring New Tech To Its 27,000 Locations

“None of us are shopping the same way we were three years ago, so, what we’re really trying to solve is the ‘pace of innovation,’” says Starbucks’ Brent Cashell, speaking in Austin this past weekend.

1. PlaceIQ And LiveRamp Partner On Creation Of Location-Based Audience Segments

“The true value of this deal is the ease in which marketers can tap into an omnichannel customer understanding,” says PlaceIQ Biz Dev Head Nadya Kohl.

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Moving From An Apartment To A House? Here’s What You Need To Remember About Your Lease

Moving From An Apartment To A HouseThe major problem that the vast majority of buyers will run into – especially when purchasing their first home – has to do with a lease agreement that is still active with their apartment complex at the time of the purchase. If you locate the perfect home in February but your lease isn’t over until August, you can’t be expected to wait around.

But at the same time, the remainder of that lease agreement could represent thousands of dollars that you’ll be paying to essentially “live” in two different places at the same time.

Luckily, all hope is not lost. There are a variety of steps that you can take to help mitigate your remaining financial risk at your apartment as much as possible.

Breaking Your Lease Early: What You Need to Know

First, look at your existing lease agreement and make sure you understand their early termination policy. This will outline the various acceptable ways, usually dictated in large part by state and other local laws, that you can break a lease early without being forced to pay through the duration of the agreement itself.

Much of this will vary based not only on the state, but also the property manager in question. Your property manager may very well allow for early termination for home buyers – particularly if they’re in an area where they know they can rent the apartment quickly.

This is not always the case, though, which is why you need to begin by reviewing the situation thoroughly so you know what you’re dealing with.

Next, you should review what state laws have to say about your landlord’s duty to find a new tenant in the area of the country that you’re living in. In some states, for example, your landlord MUST make “reasonable efforts” to re-rent your unit as quickly as possible, regardless of the reason you’ve decided to leave.

Many state housing laws require landlords to make every effort to keep their own losses at a minimum – meaning that you may not have to pay much, if anything at all, to break your lease early provided that you give said landlord enough notice. 

Why Conversations Matter

Finally, you’ll want to sit down with your landlord face-to-face (if you haven’t already done so) and explain to them exactly what is going on. Landlords are people too and oftentimes they can be more sympathetic than you think.

According to an authority on the matter, the “worst case scenario” for most renters-turned-buyers breaking a lease agreement is often that they’ll need to pay an early termination fee to break their agreement early. This can be as little as one month’s rent to “a few month’s rent” depending on the situation.

At the very least, this is better than being forced to pay every month for the remainder of your term.

In the end, it’s important for you to understand that you should not let anything get in the way of buying the home you’ve always wanted – even if you’re currently living in an apartment with an active lease agreement.

You just need to know as much about the specifics of that agreement as possible so that you can move into your new home while mitigating as much risk as possible for both yourself and your landlord at the same time.

It’s wise to consult with your trusted home financing professional about the implications of your specific situation.

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What Neustar’s Partnership With TripAdvisor Travel Ad Network SmarterTravel Means For Brands

Online/offline analytics provider Neustar is working with TripAdvisor’s SmarterTravel blog network to give advertisers the ability to target segments based upon where they are in the “trip planning cycle” and on what prospective travelers are searching for.

The audiences are created exclusively from SmarterTravel data, which is comes from the TripAdvisor subsidiary’s 11 owned and operated travel websites that attracts over 200 million monthly visitors. The specifically looks at the last 30 days of travel intent signals to deliver greater ad relevancy.

Kristin Rosmorduc, VP, Travel and Hospitality, Neustar, offered a few scenarios as to how the alliance could benefit travel-related brands as well as marketing categories across the spectrum.

For example, a sunscreen marketer may wish to target consumers traveling to warm destinations. or a major financial services brand may want to reach frequent travelers with relevant credit card offers or a hotel chain could promote its rewards program to frequent travelers to drive loyalty and repeat visits.

“Our partnership gives brands of any type (travel/hospitality specific and non-endemic advertisers, such as automotive, luxury, fashion or lifestyle) the opportunity to reach in-market travelers across the entire funnel from inspiration to booking,”Rosmorduc said. “Brands benefit from our partnership because SmarterTravel provides proprietary data from its network of 11 owned-and-operated travel websites and offers first-of-its-kind audiences based on in-market intent signals at scale, without relying on lookalike modeling or other proxies.”

Hospitality and transportation brands can reach consumers based on their search destination (e.g. continent or country), the type of travel (e.g. flight, hotel, cruise or car), or by stage of the travel planning and booking lifecycle, Rosmorduc added. These brands can target shoppers of their specific service or they can target shoppers of a different service.

In another example, she noted that a hotel could leverage flight data to offer hotel deals or cruise lines can target people researching broadly for vacations or all-inclusive hotels.

“Suppliers can also target people researching specific destinations where they have properties, hubs or ports,” Rosmorduc said.

“Brands can also target people who show signs of booking and adjust messaging and offers accordingly,” she continued. “What makes this combination so powerful is that SmarterTravel segments can be combined with Neustar’s own extensive audiences, including its segmentation solutions to refine the audiences around key brand demographic or psychographic targets, thus empowering more ROI in their media spend.”

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What Are The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Putting 20 Percent Down On A Home Purchase?

Should You Put 20 Percent Down On Your Home Purchase?Several generations ago, lenders required home buyers to have a 20 percent down payment in order to get a mortgage. While there were a few options out there for people who couldn’t save this substantial amount, the reality was that for the majority of people, the 20 percent down was a requirement.

It was the way to show that you were financially responsible enough for homeownership. And it was a strong way that the banks felt secure in making a home loan.

Today, however, homebuyers have many options available to them as they shop for a new home, and those mortgage options mean that the 20 percent down payment is no longer as much of a requirement. For most buyers, especially those who do not have the equity of an existing home to help with their purchase, the 20 percent down payment is not even a possibility.

Yet for those who can do so, putting 20 percent down carries some benefits worth considering. Here is a closer look at when the large down payment makes sense, and what the potential drawbacks are that buyers should consider.

How The 20 Percent Down Payment Helps

When it is possible for the buyer to save enough, the 20 percent down payment does have some benefits that are worth considering. First, when you are able to save 20 percent, you can get a mortgage that has no private mortgage insurance or similar fees. Because lenders consider a borrower with less than 20 percent for the down payment to be higher risk, they charge additional fees to serve as insurance on these loans.

Putting 20 percent down also means you are borrowing less. Because every dollar you borrow will be charged interest, the less you borrow the lower your repayment costs should be over the life of the loan. If you have the ability to save 20 percent, this is a benefit worth considering.

The Drawbacks Of 20 Percent Down

While saving 20 percent does have some benefits, it also has drawbacks that you must also consider. First, 20 percent of a home loan is a significant amount of money. On a modestly priced $100,000 house, that means you have to save $20,000. For the average home buyer, this represents years of saving. And you could be giving up years of price appreciation on the home that you could have purchased earlier by using one of the other financing options.

Also, if you are putting all of that money down as your down payment, you may find yourself cash strapped for other home buying costs, like new furniture or closing costs on your mortgage. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns that this can be a significant downside, especially for first-time buyers who have a lot of expenses as they make the move into their first homes.

Many people find themselves digging into their other investments, like their 401(k), to come up with the money for the down payment. When mortgage interest rates are low, this can be an unwise move. Paying a bit more in interest over the life of a mortgage is often better than creating a serious financial bind for your future needs. Digging into your retirement also means you are not getting that vital compounding interest.

Finally, saving 20 percent often means you can’t buy a home quite as quickly. Since home prices historically tend to rise, not fall, the longer you wait, the more you may spend on your home. If home prices rise by 5 percent a year, which is fairly standard, waiting two years to purchase the home means $10,000 in extra costs for a $100,000 home. The higher purchase price counters any savings you may have when you put down 20 percent.

Can You Buy With Less Than 20 Percent Down?

So can you buy a home with less than 20 percent down? The answer to that question is yes, and often it makes more financial sense to do so. In fact, according to Freddie Mac, 40 percent of homebuyers in today’s markets are making down payments of less than 10 percent. So if you are going to buy a home without saving the 20 percent, what are your options?

If you have strong credit, many lenders are still offering piggyback loans. These loans allow you to take out a smaller loan for part of your down payment, then a traditional loan for the rest of the purchase price. You may still need about 5 percent of your own money to put down on the purchase. Then you can work with your lender to borrow 15 percent with a smaller, and many times shorter-term loan, and the remainder with a conventional mortgage.

Down payment assistance is another option to consider. These programs, which are available through non-profit organizations or government-run programs, give homeowners a hand in coming up with the down payment they need to purchase the home.

Finally, consider the low down payment options that are out there. USDA loans, VA loans, FHA loans and similar loan products are designed for those with just a little bit to put down on the home. The FHA loan, for example, is a government-backed loan that requires just 3.5 percent down on the home.

Forbes indicates it is even possible to get a conventional loan with as little as 3 percent down. In some instances, like the USDA home loan program, you can even buy a home with no down payment.

While these home loans do have additional costs, like the funding fee for the VA loan or private mortgage insurance for conventional low down payment loans, they give you the ability to buy now without 20 percent down so you can start enjoying the benefits of homeownership sooner.

When buying a home, getting sound financial advice is always wise. Whether you choose to put down a large amount on your home or take advantage of these different loan options to buy with a smaller amount down, make sure you weigh your options before making your choice.

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Geo 101: What Are Neural Networks?

From geo-targeting to voice search, technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers. But it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.

With the goal of breaking down some of the most important concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far technology may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: understanding artificial neural networks.

What Are Neural Networks?

An artificial neural network refers to a computer system modeled on the human brain and nervous system. How? A collection of units or “nodes” to form a system that “learns” over time by considering a large number of samples. For example, in image recognition, a neural network might learn to identify images that contain a person by analyzing example images that are labeled “person” or “no person” — and then using these results to identify people in other images. This is about repetition and comparison rather than knowing what a human being looks like, but the system does get “smarter” at recognition over time.

This makes neural networks similar to machine learning in that the goal is to use technology to parse large amounts of data/specific kinds of data more easily and more intelligently.

But these two means do differ. As Zendesk’s Brett Grossfeld explains in a blog post, “machine learning uses algorithms to parse data, learn from that data, and make informed decisions based on what it has learned.” On the other hand, “deep learning structures algorithms in layers to create an artificial neural network that can learn and make intelligent decisions on its own.”

Why Do Neural Networks Matter To Marketers?

Essentially, they matter because they’re backing advancements in artificial intelligence, and AI is already reshaping the marketing industry: Marketers are always seeking better insights, and the way that artificial neural networks can learn — improving data analysis, image recognition capabilities, and more — is something that brands should be paying attention to today. Artificial neural networks are already giving marketers more advanced tools for predicting consumer behavior and understanding more sophisticated audience segments.

Secondly, while neural networks are already seen as imperative for facial recognition, self-driving cars, and more, they’ve now been applied to speech recognition. (For a highly technical at how neural networks are used in speech recognition, check out this blog post from software engineer and machine learning specialist Andrew Gibiansky.)

As we’ve written previously, whether they’ve been thinking about it or not, neural networks, AI, and natural language processing affect marketers’ business: first, because of the ability of voice-based communication to engender relationships, and second, because of the growing import of understanding the intent behind users’ queries when it comes to search marketing.

And while understanding queries has always mattered to search marketers, the new world of search — in which customers look for structured answers to their queries in featured snippets or from a voice assistant, rather than clicking on a series of blue links — prizes a greater understanding of intent. This means that marketers need to get smarter about intent, and advancements in the sophistication of neural networks could become a compelling way to do this.

Read more:

Four Things About Artificial Intelligence That Marketers Need to Keep In Mind In 2018

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What Items Can Change My Mortgage Pre-Approval Status?

What is a mortgage pre-approvalWhen you are purchasing a home, your lender may recommend you obtain a mortgage pre-approval before you find the home of your dreams. There are some benefits to being pre-approved before you find a home, but oftentimes, people confuse pre-qualifications with pre-approvals.

So the question many buyers have is what exactly is a mortgage pre-approval? In a nutshell, it’s when the lender provides you (the buyer) with a letter stating that your mortgage will be granted up to a specific dollar amount.

What Do I Need For Pre-Approval?

In order to obtain a pre-approval for your home purchase, you will have to provide your lender all of the same information you would need to show for qualifying for a mortgage. This means providing tax returns, bank statements and other documents that prove your net worth, how much you have saved for your down payment and your current obligations.

What Conditions Are Attached to a Pre-Approval?

Generally speaking, a pre-approval does have some caveats attached to it. Typically, you can expect to see some of the following clauses in a pre-approval letter:

  • Interest rate changes – a pre-approval is done based on current interest rates. When rates increase, your borrowing power may decrease
  • Property passes valuation and inspection – your lender will require the property you ultimately purchase to come in with a proper appraisal and meet all inspection requirements
  • Credit check requirements – regardless of whether it’s been a week or six months since you were pre-approved, your lender will require a new credit report. Changes in your credit report could negate the pre-approval
  • Changes in jobs/assets – after a pre-approval is received, a change in your employment status or any substantial assets may result in the pre-approval becoming worthless

What Items Can Change My Mortgage Pre-Approval Status?

One of the major issues that affect some borrowers as they are preparing to purchase their new home is financing large ticket items before the home purchase loan is completely funded.  Even if you are buying new furniture or other items for the home, it’s best to wait until after your home loan is entirely complete before purchasing any of these new items.

Work changes can also drasitically affect your pre-approval status.  Make sure your loan professional is well aware of any changes well in advance of them happening in order to plan effectively.  There are ways to work with job changes but it is a delicate matter during the mortgage underwriting process.

Getting pre-approved for a home mortgage may allow you more negotiation power with sellers and may help streamline the entire loan process. It is however important to keep in mind there are still things that may have a negative impact on actually getting the loan.

It is important to make sure you keep in contact with the lender, especially if interest rates increase or your employment status changes after you are pre-approved.

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Think With Google: Why Voice Assistants Are Resonating With Baby Boomers

If you think voice-activated speakers are the province of the young, think again: Over a third of consumers (37 percent) of consumers 50 or older say they use a voice-assistant — and the technology is resonating with Baby Boomers in notable ways, according to new research from Think With Google.

Part of the appeal? Once its set up, a voice-activated speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Home isn’t something that requires daily touch screen interaction like a smart watch — an interface that older demographics may still find challenging. Instead, users can issue commands and ask questions via voice — proven to be cognitively simpler than text/swipe — and do so only when they actually need something.

Per a blog post from TWG, “it becomes a device that isn’t a device anymore,” one Boomer surveyed said. “It’s an entity in your life that’s always behind the scenes for things you need.”

Baby Boomers are also asking an increasing number of questions related to health and safety — and “51 percent of those 55 years old and over said a top reason for using their voice-activated speaker is ‘it empowers me to instantly get answers and information.’”

Every Brand Needs A Voice Strategy

What does growing voice-activated assistant usage in this demographic mean for marketers? First, that even brands who may think that the voice-first revolution isn’t directly impacting them because they cater to older customers need to think about a voice strategy now.

Second, across demographic lines, the trend towards an increased willingness to make both searches and purchases via voice means that marketers need to prioritize ranking in the kind of queries users most commonly make — as well as thinking about how to become a voice assistant’s preferred answer.

Essentially, marketers need to make sure they know exactly what their customers are asking for — knowing the intent behind it, and then making sure they have content on their site that specifically addresses and answers it in order to rank in these search results.

How can marketers do this? Read more here: Geo 101: What Are Intelligent Assistants?

Hilton’s Melissa Walner: To Rank In Voice Search Results, Craft Content That Answers Specific Questions

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Can I Have A Co-Signer For My Mortgage Loan?

Can I Have A Co-Signer For My Mortgage LoanLike credit cards or car loans, some mortgages allow borrowers to have co-signers on the loan with them, enhancing their application. However, a co-signer on a mortgage loan doesn’t have the same impact that it might on another loan. Furthermore, it poses serious drawbacks for the co-signer.

Mortgage Co-Signers

A mortgage co-signer is a person that isn’t an owner or occupant of the house. However, the co-signer is on the hook for the loan. Typically, a co-signer is a family member or close friend that wants to help the main borrower qualify for a mortgage. To that end, he signs the loan documents along with the main borrower, taking full responsibility for them.

When a co-signer applies for a mortgage, the lender considers the co-signer’s income and savings along with the borrower’s. For instance, if a borrower only has $3,000 per month in income but wants to have a mortgage that, when added up with his other payments, works out to a total debt load of $1,800 per month, a lender might not be willing to make the loan.

If the borrower adds a co-signer with $3,000 per month in income and no debt, the lender looks at the $1,800 in payments against the combined income of $6,000, and may be much more likely to approve it.

Co-Signer Limitations

Co-signers can add income, but they can’t mitigate credit problems. Typically, the lender will look at the least qualified borrower’s credit score when deciding whether or not to make the loan. This means that a co-signer might not be able to help a borrower who has adequate income but doesn’t have adequate credit.

Risks of Co-Signing

Co-signing arrangements carry risks for both the borrower and the co-signer. The co-signer gets all of the downsides of debt without the benefits. He doesn’t get to use or own the house, but he’s responsible for it if the mortgage goes unpaid.

The co-signer’s credit could be ruined and he could be sued (in some states) if the borrower doesn’t pay and he doesn’t step in. For the borrower, having a co-signer adds an additional level of pressure to make payments since defaulting on the loan will hurt him and his co-signer.

As always, it’s a good idea to speak with your trusted mortgage loan professional for advice in your specific situation.

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How Starbucks’ 20,000 Square Foot Innovation Center Will Bring ‘Innovation’ To Its 27,000 Locations

Starbucks is currently building a 20,000 square-foot space that will house its TRYER Innovation Center. As Brent Cashell, TRYER’s director, describes it, rthe center is “a combination of a makers space and a Starbucks store where everybody who works at Starbucks can come down and test their idea.”

Those ideas can range from “a cool idea for a new drink or a payment process, and then collaborate with others to figure out how that’s going to work in the real world,” Cashell said, speaking to the audience at Kwolia’s Retail Innovation Lounge during SxSW this past Saturday.

Cashell has worked at Starbucks for 16 years, starting as a barista at one of its locations.  The name of the center comes from the use of a “tryer,” which is a piece of equipment used as you’re roasting coffee to constantly check whether the beans are ready. “The tryer is Y-shaped, and looks kind of like a tuning fork. The funny thing is, you can have a million dollar system running a coffee roaster and if you don’t use the Tryer, you’ll burn the coffee.”

In that sense, the TRYER Innovation Center reflects Starbucks’ approach to technology as a search for the necessary tool to solve basic problems.

“Innovation is one of those things where it’s really easy to use the name and the buzzword and it’s really hard to define what it is and what is the purpose of it,” Cashell said. “Let’s think about it this way: the purpose of a shovel is not to have a metal spade and a nice long handle and to be strong and look great in a shed. The purpose of a shovel is to dig a hole. So the purpose of running innovation at Starbucks is not so that we simply have something cool or launch something to get attention for its own sake. The ultimate goal is to have something that matches what your consumer actually needs, wants, and has an emotional connection to.”

After figuring out what innovation means, the hardest part comes when attempting to implement it seamlessly at a company as vast as Starbucks.

“We have 27,000 locations, globally, and 10,000 of those are here in the U.S. —  15,000 if you count all of our licensed store locations domestically — so, even if I have a great idea that I want roll out tomorrow, I still live in a very physical world,” Cashell said. “Where in order to get that thing installed in 15,000 locations, just here in the U.S., is really time consuming. And it’s kind of catastrophic to the physical environment, because that beautiful bar that we’ve created that holds our coffee equipment is made out of real things that are made to last a long time, so if I cut it in half, and try to shift it over, that just kills every business space, if we do it.”

Brent Cashell, director of Starbucks’ TRYER Innovation Center, speaking at the Retail Innovation Lounge during SxSW.

The other big universal questions Starbucks wrestles with when it comes to advancing technology and services is “how does a new feature or program actually appear in a store setting? And is that worth the time and effort in pursuing?”

The process that will govern Starbucks’ TRYER Innovation Center will involve the ability to take an idea to a prototype, whether that’s physically on a station, or just a digital mock-up, in less than 24-48 hours so the company can understand the basics of how an idea might work in the real world.

“None of us are shopping the same way we were three years ago, none of us are working in the same routine we were three years ago,” Cashell told the Austin audience. “We’re wearing different clothes, we’re eating different foods. Everything’s always changing, and we always have to be relevant. What we’re really trying to solve here is ‘the pace of innovation,’ the ability to learn as fast as possible with as least investment as possible and then over time, to create and transform how we innovate.

“We do that through the physical locations that we innovate in,” Cashell continued, “we do that through working together more collaboratively and really focusing on the customer value and designing everything with our customers in mind together with our partners in the store.”

We caught up with Cashell after his RIL talk to discuss additional ways Starbucks applies those principles to mobile ordering, voice activation, and on-demand. Check back at this link for the Q&A later this afternoon.


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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 12th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 12th, 2018Last week’s economic releases included reports on Non-Farm Payrolls, ADP payrolls, and the national unemployment rate. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Public and Private Sector Jobs Show Mixed Readings

ADP Payrolls reported 235,000 private sector jobs added in February as compared to January’s updated reading of 243,000 jobs added. Analysts estimated 205,000 private sector jobs would be added, but this was based on the original reading of 234,000 jobs added. February was the fourth consecutive month when private sector job growth exceeded 200,000 jobs.

According to the federal government, Non-Farm payrolls added 74000 public and private-sector jobs in February for a reading of 313,000 jobs added. February’s gain was the largest in a year and a half. Analysts expected 222,000 jobs added in February. Analysts cited solid economic strength as contributing to higher-than-expected job growth.

Strong economic growth can encourage prospective home buyers to move from renting to buying a home, but first-time and moderate-income buyers continued to face headwinds including short supplies of available homes and strict mortgage requirements. Rising mortgage rates have also impacted buyers’ ability to qualify for mortgage loans.

National unemployment was unchanged at 4.10 percent.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Mortgage rates rose again last week; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage gained three basis points to 4.46 percent. 15-year fixed rate mortgage rates rose by four basis points to 3.94 percent. 

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 3.63 percent. Discount points held steady at 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims rose to 231,000 new claims filed as compared to an expected reading of 220,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 210,000 first-time claims filed. 

Analysts said that job growth remains robust regardless of higher first-time jobless claims. While layoffs rose in February, analysts said that anomalies including bad weather made it difficult to project February readings for first-time jobless claims.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings from the National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued and the University of Michigan’s report on consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

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