CPI falls, Empire index improves, Mortgage apps drop
* The Consumer Price Index dropped 0.1% in March, compared with forecasts for a rise of 0.1%. That pegs the year-over-year change in CPI at -0.4%, down from +0.2% in February. That's the biggest decline going all the way back to August 1955. The core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.2%, above forecasts for a monthly gain of 0.1%. That gives us a +1.8% rate of change in core CPI from a year earlier.
* The Empire manufacturing index measures activity in the New York area. It improved to minus-14.7 in April from -38.2 in March. That was much better than expectations for a reading of -35. The new orders index improved substantially to -3.9 from -44.8, while the employment index rose more modestly to -28.1 from -38.2.
* Meanwhile, the big spike in mortgage applications from the week of April 3 cooled somewhat. The overall index declined 11% on the week, with refinance activity down 10.9% and purchase applications off 11.3%.