May 20th, 2013
This week brings us the release of three pieces of relevant economic news in addition to the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting and a speaking engagement with Fed Chairman Bernanke and a congressional committee. Only one of the economic reports is considered to be highly important to the markets and mortgage rates, but the others do carry enough significance to influence mortgage rates if they show a wide variance from forecasts.
Monday and Tuesday have nothing of importance scheduled, so look for stock movement to heavily influence bond trading and mortgage rates. Stock gains will probably pressure bonds and cause mortgage rates to move higher. If the major stock indexes show losses during the first couple days, we may see bonds thrive and mortgage rates remain unchanged or move slightly lower.
The National Association of Realtors will give us their Existing Home Sales report at 10:00 AM ET Wednesday. This data tracks resales of existing homes in the U.S. during April, giving us a measurement of housing sector strength. This type of data is relevant because a weakening housing sector makes a broader economic recovery less likely. Current forecasts are calling for an increase in home sales between March and April. Ideally, the bond market would prefer to see a decline, indicating housing sector weakness. A large increase in sales could lead to bond weakness and a small increase in mortgage rates Wednesday morning since a strengthening housing sector raises optimism about broader economic growth.
Also late Wednesday morning will be testimony from Fed Chairman Bernanke to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. He will be updating them on the status of the economy and the Fed’s outlook for future growth and monetary policy. This will be watched closely and is one of those speaking engagements that can cause considerable movement in the financial markets and mortgage rates.
Furthermore, the minutes of the last FOMC meeting will be released Wednesday afternoon. Market participants will be looking for how Fed members voted during the last meeting and any comments about inflation concerns in the economy and economic growth. The goal is to form opinions about the Fed’s next move regarding interest rates and their current bond-buying program (QE3). Since the minutes will be released at 2:00 PM ET, if there is a market reaction to them it will be evident during afternoon trading Wednesday.
April’s New Home Sales report is the sister report of the Existing Home Sales and will be released late Thursday morning. It gives us a similar measurement of housing sector strength and future mortgage credit demand, but tracks a much smaller portion of housing sales than Wednesday’s report does. Actually, it is the least important release of the week and probably will not have much of an impact on mortgage pricing unless it shows a sizable variance from forecasts. It is expected to show gains in sales from March’s level, meaning the new home portion of the housing sector also strengthened last month.
Friday has the week’s most important economic report with April’s Durable Goods Orders being posted. This data gives us an indication of manufacturing sector strength by tracking orders at U.S. factories for big-ticket products. These are items made with an expected life span of three or more years. It is currently expected to show an increase in new orders of approximately 1.6%, indicating the manufacturing sector remained strengthened a little last month. That would be relatively bad news for the bond market and mortgage rates, but this data is known to be quite volatile. Therefore, a small variance from forecasts would likely have little impact on Friday’s mortgage rates.
Overall, I believe Wednesday will be the most important day for rates, although Friday should be active also as it will be shortened due to the early close ahead of the Memorial Day holiday and has the most important report of the week. Still, Wednesday’s economic data and Chairman Bernanke’s testimony in the morning and FOMC minutes in the afternoon means we could see a couple changes to mortgage rates that day. I suspect that Tuesday will be the calmest day of the week. There is nothing to be concerned with Monday, but strong selling in bonds late Friday means there is a fairly large increase in mortgage rates waiting if your lender did not make an upward revision during afternoon trading. I don’t think we will see as much movement in rates that we saw last week, however, it is still recommended to maintain contact with your mortgage professional if you have not locked an interest rate yet.