Wholesale inflation declines. Mortgage rates edge higher. Walmart raises starting salaries, gives cash bonuses.

Wholesale inflation declined for the first time in nearly 1 1/2 years in December from November amidst decreasing costs for services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the Producer Price Index (PPI) declined 0.1% in December, well below the 0.4% recorded in November. On an annual basis, the PPI rose 2.6%, after the 3.1% rise seen in November. The more closely watched inflation reading Consumer Price Index will be released Friday morning.

Mortgage rates edged higher this week as Bond prices declined and yields increased. U.S. Stocks continue to push higher pressuring Bond prices lower. When Bond prices decline, mortgage and interest rates tend to rise. Freddie Mac reports that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 4 basis points to 3.99% with an average 0.5 in points and fees. Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage.

Retailing giant Walmart announced on Thursday that it will be raising its starting wage rate for hourly employees to $11 an hour after the Tax Cut and Jobs Act was passed in December. In addition, workers that are employed 20-years will receive a one-time cash bonus of $1000, $750 for those employed 15 to 19 years of service, 10 to 14 years $400, five to nine years $300, two to four $250 and workers with less than two years will receive $200. The wage increases are expected to cost Walmart $300 million.