April 1st, 2012
This week brings us the release of three monthly economic reports in addition to the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting. While three reports is usually not much of a concern, two of the week’s three are considered to be highly important to the markets and mortgage rates. Thrown in the fact that this is a holiday-shortened trading week and we have the mix for a very interesting week.
The first report comes late tomorrow morning when the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) will release their manufacturing index. This index gives us an important measurement of manufacturer sentiment by surveying trade executives and is one of the more important of this week’s data. A reading above 50 means more surveyed executives felt business improved during the month than those who said it had worsened. This month’s report is expected to show a reading of 53.0, which would be a decline from February’s reading of 52.4. This means that analysts think business sentiment slipped from last month’s level. That would be fairly good news for the bond market and mortgage rates. A noticeable decline would be favorable for rates while an increase would be negative.
February’s Factory Orders will be released early Tuesday morning. This data is similar to last week’s Durable Goods Orders report, except it includes orders for both durable and non-durable goods, giving us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength. It is also the least important of this week’s reports. Unless it varies greatly from forecasts of a 1.4% increase, I suspect that it will be a non-factor in the mortgage market.
The next important event comes Tuesday afternoon when the Fed releases the minutes of their last FOMC meeting. Market participants will be looking at them closely. They give us insight to the Fed’s current thought process and individual Fed member opinions. Any surprises in the 2:00 PM ET release, particularly about inflation or the likelihood of a Fed move to boost economic activity, could cause afternoon volatility in the markets Tuesday and possible changes in mortgage pricing.
Wednesday doesn’t have any economic data scheduled for release from a government agency or reliable source. There are a couple of private sector employment-related reports being posted, but they are not considered highly important to the bond market or mortgage rates. These reports have not been accurate in predicting results of government reports, so they usually do not have much of an impact on bond trading or mortgage pricing. We do see some reaction to them if they reveal a surprisingly significant indication of employment strength or weakness. However, I don’t believe they deserve much concern or attention in regards to mortgage pricing.
The biggest news of the week will come early Friday morning when the Labor Department posts March’s Employment report, giving us the U.S. unemployment rate and the number of jobs added or lost during the month. This is an extremely important report to the financial and mortgage markets. It is expected to show that the unemployment rate remained at 8.3% and that approximately 200,000 payrolls were added during the month. A higher unemployment rate and a smaller than expected payroll number would be good news for bonds and would likely push mortgage rates lower Friday morning because it would indicate weakness in the employment sector of the economy.
Overall, I think it is going to be an active week for the mortgage market. The most important day is Friday, but not only because the almighty monthly Employment report is being posted. Friday is Good Friday, meaning the stock markets will be closed. However, due to the release of the Employment report, the bond market will be open until noon ET Friday. This means that bond trading will take place without the influence of stock gains or losses. Tomorrow is also going to be a big part of whether rates fall or rise for the week, so please maintain contact with your mortgage professional if still floating an interest rate.