December 3rd, 2012
This week has five pieces of economic data set for release, including two that are considered to be highly important to the markets and mortgage rates. November’s manufacturing index from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) is the first, coming at 10:00 AM ET Monday. This index measures manufacturer sentiment and can have a considerable impact on the financial markets and mortgage rates. Current forecasts call for a small decline in sentiment from October to November. October’s reading was previously announced as 51.7. A weaker reading than the expected 51.2 would be good news for the bond market and mortgage rates. A reading above 50 means that more surveyed trade executives felt business improved during the month than those who felt it had worsened. The lower the reading the better the news for bonds because waning sentiment indicates a slowing manufacturing sector and makes a broader economic recovery less likely.
The next piece of data that we need to be concerned with comes early Wednesday morning when revised 3rd Quarter Productivity numbers are posted. 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 2.7%, up from the previous estimate of 1.9%. The higher the reading, the better the news for the bond market.
October’s Factory Orders will be posted late Wednesday morning. This report is similar to the Durable Goods Orders report that was released last week, except this one includes manufacturing orders for both durable and non-durable goods. This data usually isn’t a major influence on bond trading, but it does carry enough importance to impact mortgage rates if it shows a sizable variance from forecasts. Analysts are expecting to see a slight decline in new orders. The larger decline, the better the news for bond prices and mortgage rates because it would signal manufacturing sector weakness. If we do see a sizable drop in new orders, the bond market could thrive, improving mortgage rates Wednesday morning.
There is no other relevant economic news scheduled for release until Friday morning. There are a couple of potentially relevant foreign central bank announcements early Thursday morning that we will be watching. Announcements from the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, which are similar to our FOMC meetings, could influence the global markets including ours. The impact will probably be minimal, but we do need to keep an eye on those announcements early Thursday.
The biggest news of the week comes Friday morning when the Labor Department posts November’s Employment figures. This is arguably the most important monthly report we see. It is comprised of many statistics and readings, but the most watched ones are the unemployment rate, the number of news jobs added or lost during the month and average hourly earnings. Current forecasts call for a 0.1% increase in the unemployment rate to 8.0% while 90,000 new jobs were added to the economy. The income reading is forecasted to show an increase of 0.2%. An ideal scenario for mortgage shoppers would be a higher unemployment rate than 8.0%, a smaller increase in payrolls (or a decline) and no change in the earnings reading. If we are fortunate enough to hit the trifecta with all three, we should see the stock markets fall, bond prices rise and mortgage rates move lower Friday. However, stronger than expected readings would likely fuel a stock rally and bond sell-off that would lead to higher mortgage rates.
Also Friday is the release of December’s preliminary reading to the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment. This index measures consumer willingness to spend and can usually have enough of an impact on the financial markets to change mortgage rates slightly. Consumer sentiment or confidence is tracked because the more comfortable consumers are about their own financial situations, the more likely they are to make a large purchase in the near future. Since consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the economy, any related data is watched closely. Friday’s release is expected to show a reading of 82.4, which would be a small decline from last month’s final reading of 82.7. A larger decline in confidence would be considered good news for the bond market and mortgage rates.
Overall, look for Friday to be the key day of the week simply due to the fact we are getting the monthly Employment report that day. Monday’s ISM report is also considered highly important, but a level below the Employment report. Still it could be a market mover and set the tone for the markets until Friday’s data is posted. The middle part of the week is the lightest, which is a change from most weeks. I would pick Tuesday to be the least important day of the week, however, any day can bring movement in mortgage rates if the stock markets make a sizable move or something unexpected happens here or in the geopolitical arena. Therefore, I would recommend maintaining contact with your mortgage professional if still floating an interest rate and closing in the near future.