December 16th, 2013
This week has nine monthly or quarterly economic reports scheduled for release in addition to some key Fed events and a couple of Treasury auctions that could potentially affect mortgage rates. There is data set for release every day of the week, but the more important events will take or be posted the middle days. Still, with the majority of the days having multiple reports or events scheduled, there is a good chance of seeing plenty of movement in mortgage pricing this week.
The week opens with revised 3rd Quarter Productivity numbers at 8:30 AM ET Monday. This index is expected to show an upward revision from the preliminary reading of worker productivity. Higher levels of productivity are thought to allow the economy to expand without inflationary pressures rising. This is good news for the bond market because economic growth itself isn’t necessarily bad for the bond market. It’s the conditions around an expanding economy, such as inflation, that hurt bond prices and mortgage rates. Current forecasts are calling for an annual rate of 2.8%, up from the previous estimate of 1.9%. The higher the reading, the better the news it is for the bond market.
Next up is November’s Industrial Production report mid-morning Monday. This report gives us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength by tracking output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities. Analysts are expecting it to show a 0.4% increase in output, indicating modest manufacturing growth. A smaller than expected rise would be good news for bonds, while a stronger reading may result in slightly higher mortgage pricing.
November’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) will be released at 8:30 AM ET Tuesday. It is similar to last Friday’s Producer Price Index, except it tracks inflationary pressures at the more important consumer level of the economy. Current forecasts call for an increase of 0.1% in both the overall and core data readings. This data is one of the most watched inflation indexes, which is extremely important to long-term securities such as mortgage related bonds. Rising inflation erodes the value of a bond’s future fixed interest payments, making them less appealing to investors. That translates into falling bond prices and rising mortgage rates. Therefore, weak readings would be favorable for the bond market and mortgage shoppers.
Wednesday’s only economic report is Housing Starts, but we will get three months worth of it. Due to the government shutdown in October and problems collecting data last month, we will see results for September, October and November at 8:30 AM ET Wednesday. This data isn’t known to be highly influential on bonds or mortgage pricing. It does give us an indication of housing sector strength by tracking new home groundbreakings, so it is worth watching. All three months are expected to show increases, indicating strength in the new home portion of the housing sector. Slowing starts would be favorable for the bond market, although a wide variance is likely needed for the data to cause noticeable movement in the markets or mortgage rates.
Wednesday also has some significant FOMC events that can be highly influential on the financial and mortgage markets. The two-day FOMC meeting that began Tuesday will adjourn at 2:00 PM ET Wednesday. It is widely expected that Mr. Bernanke and company will not change key short-term interest rates at this meeting, but traders and analysts are anxious to get the Fed’s current economic forecasts and any word of a potential reduction in the Fed’s current bond buying program. Also worth noting is that the meeting is ending earlier than the traditional 2:15 PM because it is one of the meetings that will be followed by a press conference hosted by Fed Chairman Bernanke. The meeting will adjourn at 2:00 PM, forecasts will be posted at 2:00 PM and the press conference will begin at 2:30 PM. It is fairly safe to assume that all of that will lead to afternoon volatility in the markets and mortgage rates Wednesday.
Thursday has two monthly reports scheduled for 10:00 AM ET that we will be watching. The first is November’s Existing Home Sales figures from the National Association of Realtors, giving us a measurement of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand. It is expected to show a decline in sales, indicating a slowing housing sector. A sizable decline in sales would be considered positive for bonds and mortgage rates because a softening housing market makes broader economic growth more difficult. But unless the actual readings vary greatly from forecasts, the results will probably have little or no impact on mortgage rates.
The Conference Board will also release their Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for the month of November late Thursday morning. This release attempts to measure or predict economic activity over the next three to six months. It is expected to show a 0.6% increase, meaning that it predicts economic growth over the next several months. This probably will not have much influence on bond prices or affect mortgage rates unless it shows a much stronger reading than the 0.6% rise that is forecasted. The weaker the reading, the better the news it is for bonds and mortgage pricing.
Friday has the remaining report with the final revision to the 3rd Quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 8:30 AM ET. I don’t think this data will have an impact on mortgage rates unless it varies greatly from its expected reading. Last month’s first revision showed that the economy expanded at a 3.6% annual pace during the quarter and this month’s final revision is expected to show no change from that level. A revision higher than the 3.6% rate that is expected would be considered bad news for bonds. But since this data is quite aged at this point and 4th quarter numbers will be posted next month, I don’t think it will have much of an impact on Friday’s mortgage rates.
In addition to this week’s economic data and Fed events, we also have Treasury auctions scheduled the first three days. The two that are most likely to influence mortgage rates are Wednesday’s 5-year and Thursday’s 7-year Note sales. If those sales are met with a strong demand, particularly Thursday’s auction, bond prices may rise enough to lead to improvements in mortgage rates shortly after the results are posted. They will be announced at 11:30 am Wednesday and 1:00 PM Thursday. But a lackluster investor demand may create bond selling and upward revisions to mortgage rates Wednesday and/or Thursday.
Overall, Wednesday is the key day of the week due to the afternoon Fed schedule. Tuesday’s data is also key to the bond market, but I think we will see the most volatility in the markets and mortgage rates Wednesday. Despite the GDP reading, I believe Friday is the best candidate for calmest day. Generally speaking, this is probably going to be a pretty active week for the bond and mortgage markets. It is likely that I will remain very cautious towards rates until the benchmark 10-year Treasury Note yield breaks above 2.90% (currently at 2.87%) for more than a few minutes to see if that truly is a strong resistance level or if it will continue to rise past. Therefore, please maintain contact with your mortgage professional if still floating an interest rate and closing in the near future as we are getting very close to that threshold.