November 25th, 2013
This holiday-shortened week brings us the release of six relevant economic reports for the markets to digest in addition to a couple of Treasury auctions that have the potential to affect rates. All of the week’s data is being posted over only two days, partly due to the Thanksgiving holiday, so the middle part of the week should be the most interesting for mortgage shoppers.
The week’s data starts early Tuesday morning when September and October’s Housing Starts are posted. September’s data, originally set for release last month, was delayed due to the government shutdown. This data gives us an indication of housing sector strength, but usually does not have a noticeable impact on mortgage rates. I don’t expect these to be any different unless they vary greatly from analysts’ forecasts. Both months are expected to show increases in starts of new homes, meaning the new home portion of the housing sector strengthened during September and October. Good news for the bond and mortgage markets would be sizable declines in the data, particularly in October.
November’s Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) will be released late Tuesday morning by the Conference Board, giving us a measurement of consumer willingness to spend. If a consumer’s confidence in their own financial and employment situation is strengthening, analysts believe that they are more apt to make larger purchases, fueling economic growth. This is important because consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the U.S. economy and makes long-term securities such as mortgage-related bonds less attractive to investors. Analysts are expecting to see a small increase in confidence from last month’s level, meaning surveyed consumers were a little more optimistic about their own financial situations this month than they were last month. A weaker reading than the 72.4 that is expected would be good news for mortgage rates, while a stronger reading could push mortgage rates higher Tuesday.
Wednesday has the remaining three economic reports that we need to be concerned with. October’s Durable Goods Orders is the first and will be posted at 8:30 AM ET. This data helps us measure manufacturing strength by tracking orders for big-ticket items or items that are expected to last three or more years, such as airplanes, appliances and electronics. This data is known to be quite volatile from month-to-month, so sizable swings from the previous month are fairly normal. It is expected to show a 2.2% decline in new orders. A larger than expected drop would be considered good news for the bond market and mortgage rates as it would indicate manufacturing sector weakness. However, we need to see a sizable variance for the markets to have a noticeable reaction due to the expected volatility in the data.
The revised November reading to the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment will be posted just before 10:00 AM ET Wednesday morning. As with Tuesday’s CCI, it will give us a measurement of consumer willingness to spend. Analysts are expecting to see an upward revision to the preliminary reading of 72.0. Unless we see a significant variance from the forecasted 73.0, I don’t think this data will cause much movement in mortgage rates Wednesday.
The final report of the week will come from the Conference Board at 10:00 AM ET Wednesday when they release their Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for October. This is a moderately important report that attempts to predict economic activity over the next three to six months. It is expected to show a 0.1% decline, meaning economic activity will likely remain flat over the next couple of months. Generally speaking, this would be good news for bonds. However, since this data is considered only moderately important, its results need to miss forecasts by a wide margin for it to affect mortgage rates.
In addition to this week’s economic reports, there are two relatively important Treasury auctions that may also influence bond trading enough to affect mortgage rates. There will be an auction of 5-year Treasury Notes Tuesday and 7-year Notes on Wednesday. Neither of these sales will directly impact mortgage pricing, but they can influence general bond market sentiment. If the sales go poorly, we could see broader selling in the bond market that leads to upward revisions in mortgage rates. However, strong investor demand usually make bonds more attractive to investors and brings more funds into the bond market. The buying of bonds that follows often translates into lower mortgage rates. Results of the sales will be posted at 1:00 PM ET auction day, so look for any reaction to come during afternoon hours.
The financial markets will be closed Thursday in observance of the Thanksgiving Day holiday. There will not be an early close Wednesday ahead of the holiday, but the stock and bond markets will close early Friday and will reopen next Monday morning. I suspect that Friday will be a very light day in bond trading as many market participants will be home. Banks have to be open Friday, but we will likely see little change to mortgage rates that day.
Overall, I am expecting Wednesday to be the busiest day for the bond market and mortgage rates with three of the week’s reports scheduled, including the most important one (Durable Goods), along with the 7-year Note auction. There is nothing of importance scheduled for Monday, but Friday will likely be the calmest day of the week as many traders will be home for the long weekend rather than in the office working. The benchmark 10-year Treasury Note yield closed last week at 2.75%, so I will be watching it for mortgage rate direction also. If it does not make a move below 2.70% and remain there, I believe there is more likelihood of it moving towards 2.90% than there is of it staying in the 2.70 – 2.75% range. Since mortgage rates tend to follow bond yields, this would translate into higher rates. Therefore, please proceed cautiously if still floating an interest rate and closing in the near future.