August 13th, 2012
This week brings us the release of seven pieces of economic data that are relevant to the bond market and mortgage pricing. There is no relevant data scheduled for release today, so look for the stock markets to drive bond trading and mortgage rates. There is data scheduled for every other day with three of the four remaining days having multiple reports being posted. This means we are likely to see plenty of movement in the markets and mortgage rates this week.
Tuesday has two of the week’s reports scheduled to be posted. July’s Retail Sales data is the first and one of the highly important reports scheduled this week. This data is very important to the financial markets and mortgage rates because it helps us measure consumer spending. Since consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the U.S. economy, any data related to it can cause a fair amount of movement in the markets. A smaller than expected increase would indicate that consumers are spending less than previously thought, pointing towards further slowing in the economic recovery. This is good news for the bond market and mortgage rates as it eases inflation concerns and makes long-term securities such as mortgage-related bonds more attractive to investors. Current forecasts are calling for an increase of 0.3%.
One of the week’s key inflation indexes will also be posted early Tuesday morning. July’s Producer Price Index (PPI) will give us an indication of inflation at the producer level of the economy. There are two readings in the report- the overall index and the core data reading. The core data is more important because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices that can change significantly from month to month. Current forecasts call for a 0.2% rise in the overall reading and a 0.2% increase in the core data. A larger increase in the core data could push mortgage rates higher Tuesday morning. If it reveals weaker than expected readings, we may see mortgage rates improve as a result. That is assuming that the Retail Sales data doesn’t show a surprise increase or decline.
The PPI will be followed by the even more important Consumer Price Index (CPI) early Wednesday morning. The Consumer Price Index is one of the most important reports we see each month as it measures inflation at the consumer level of the economy. As with the PPI, there are also two readings in the report. Current forecasts call for a 0.2% increase in the overall index and a 0.2% rise in the core data reading. Declines in the readings, especially in the core data, should lead to lower mortgage rates as it would mean inflation is still not a threat to the economy. However, stronger than expected readings will likely cause an increase to mortgage pricing Wednesday
July’s Industrial Production is Wednesday’s second report with a release time of 9:15 AM ET. It gives us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength by tracking output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities. It is considered to be moderately important to the markets and can influence mortgage rates slightly. Current forecasts are calling for a 0.6% increase in production, indicating some strength in the manufacturing sector. Good news for the bond market and mortgage rates would be a decline in output, signaling sector weakness.
Thursday has only one monthly report scheduled for release. July’s Housing Starts will be posted at 8:30 AM ET Thursday. This report gives us an indication of housing sector strength and future mortgage credit demand. However, it isn’t considered to be of high importance to the bond market or mortgage pricing and usually doesn’t cause much movement in mortgage rates unless it varies greatly from forecasts. It is the least important of the week’s reports and is expected to show a slight increase in construction starts of new homes. The lower the number of starts, the better the news for the bond market, as it would indicate a weaker than expected housing sector.
Friday also has two pieces of data that are relevant to mortgage rates, but both come during late morning trading. The University of Michigan will release their Index of Consumer Sentiment for August at 9:55 AM Friday. This index gives us a measurement of consumer willingness to spend. If confidence is rising, then consumers are more apt to make large purchases. This helps fuel consumer spending and economic growth. By theory, a drop in confidence should boost bond prices, but this data is considered moderately important and carries much less significance than some of the week’s other reports. Analysts are expecting to see a reading of 72.2, which would be a slight decline from July’s revised reading of 72.3. The smaller the reading, the more concerned consumers are in their own financial situations and the better the news for mortgage rates.
The final report of the week will come from the Conference Board, who will give us its Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for July. This index attempts to measure economic activity over the next three to six months and is considered to be moderately important. A higher than expected reading is bad news for the bond market because it indicates that the economy may be strengthening more than thought. However, a weaker than expected reading means that the economy may not grow as much as predicted, making stocks less appealing to investors. This also eases inflation concerns in the bond market and could lead to slightly lower mortgage rates Friday if the stock markets remain calm and the day’s other data does not show any surprises. It is expected to show an increase of 0.2 % in the index, indicating minor economic growth over the next couple of months. It will take a sizable difference between forecasts and its actual reading for this report to influence mortgage rates.
Overall, I am expecting Tuesday or Wednesday to be the most important days of the week. Tuesday’s Retail Sales report and Wednesday’s CPI are the two single most influential reports. Since Tuesday has the Retail Sales and PPI reports and consumer level inflation is not expected to be an immediate threat, I am leaning towards it as the day that we will see the most movement in mortgage rates. However, Wednesday is also a key day. I am expecting to see the least movement tomorrow, unless the stock markets stage a significant rally or sell-off. With so much going on this week, I strongly recommend maintaining contact with your mortgage professional if still floating an interest rate.