March 4th, 2012
This week has four government-compiled economic reports for the markets to digest. Only one is considered to be highly important, but it is a big one. The rest of the reports are moderately important to the markets, meaning they have the potential to affect mortgage rates but usually don’t cause a noticeable change.
The most important data comes the matter part of the week, but sizable moves in stocks can impact bond trading and mortgage rates any day.
The week’s first data comes tomorrow with the release of January’s Factory Orders during late morning hours, which will give us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength. This data is similar to last week’s Durable Goods, except this report covers orders for both durable and non-durable goods. Current forecasts are calling for a drop in new orders of approximately 1.9%. A larger than expected drop would be good news for the bond market and could lead to an improvement in mortgage rates since it would point towards economic weakness.
There is nothing of relevance scheduled for Tuesday, but Wednesday has a couple of releases that are considered moderately important. The first is the revised Productivity index for the 4th Quarter of last year. The preliminary reading posted last month showed an annual growth rate of 0.7% in worker output. Analysts are expecting to see an upward revision of 0.2% to last month’s initial reading. Employee productivity is watched fairly closely because a higher level of output per hour is believed to mean that the economy can expand without inflation concerns. However, since this data is quite aged now, it likely will have little impact on Wednesday’s mortgage rates unless it shows a significant change.
Wednesday also has a couple of private sector employment-related reports due to be posted. The biggest one comes from payroll processor ADP who will announce their change in payrolls processed last month. Since it is not a government agency report, it isn’t considered to be highly important, but as with any employment-related data, it does draw some attention. This is especially true for this report because it is posted just before monthly employment figures are released by the Labor Department.
Thursday has nothing to be concerned with but Friday is a different story. The biggest news of the week comes early Friday morning when one of the single most important monthly reports we see will be posted. The Labor Department will release February’s Employment report at 8:30 AM ET Friday. Some of the important portions of the report will give us the unemployment rate, number of new jobs added or lost and the average hourly earnings reading. The best combination for the bond market and mortgage rates would be an increase in the unemployment rate, a much smaller increase in payrolls than expected and little or no increase in earnings. Current forecasts are calling for no change in the unemployment rate of 8.3% and approximately 207,000 new jobs added to the economy. Stronger than expected readings will likely fuel a stock market rally and selling bonds that would cause a sizable upward revision to mortgage rates. On the other hand, disappointing numbers would raise concerns about the economy’s ability to continue to grow at its current pace that would have an opposite impact on the markets and mortgage pricing.
January’s Goods and Services Trade Balance report will also be released early Friday morning, but it will likely draw little interest from market participants. It will give us the size of the U.S. trade deficit, but often does not directly impact mortgage rates and is the week’s least important piece of news. Current forecasts are calling for a $48.1 billion trade deficit during January, but we will need to see a large variance from this estimate and little surprise in the employment figures for this news to influence bond trading enough to affect mortgage pricing. It is highly likely that this report will be a non-factor in Friday’s pricing.
Overall, look for a fairly active week in the markets and mortgage rates. I suspect there will be some optimism leading up to Friday’s Employment report, which could lead to support in stocks and pressure in bonds as we get closer to Friday. That day is undoubtedly the biggest of the week and we can label Tuesday as the least important. Please be careful this week if still floating an interest rate, especially the latter part of the week.