January 9th, 2012
This week brings us the release of four pieces of economic data to digest along with two important Treasury auctions. None of them are scheduled for today or Tuesday, meaning all of the week’s events will come over two and a half days.
Until we get to the week’s first relevant event Wednesday afternoon, look for the stock markets to be a major contributor to movements in bond prices and mortgage rates. Stock strength will likely equate into bond weakness and higher mortgage rates, and vice versa if stocks fall.
The first relevant report of the week is the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report at 2:00 PM ET Wednesday. This report, which is named simply after the color of its cover, details economic conditions throughout the U.S. by region. Since the Fed relies heavily on it during their FOMC meetings, its results can have a fairly big impact on the financial markets and mortgage rates if it reveals any surprises, particularly regarding inflation, unemployment or future hiring.
The two important Treasury auctions will be held Wednesday and Thursday when 10-year Notes and 30-year Bonds are sold. The 10-year sale is the more important of the two as it will give us a better indication for demand of mortgage-related securities. If the sales are met with a strong demand from investors, we should see the bond market move higher during afternoon trading the days of the auctions. But a lackluster interest from buyers, particularly international investors, would indicate a waning appetite for longer-term U.S. securities and lead to broader bond selling. The selling in bonds would result in upward revisions to mortgage rates.
Thursday has December’s Retail Sales data scheduled, which is the most important report of the week and one of the more watched releases we get each month. This Commerce Department report measures consumer spending by tracking sales at retail establishments in the U.S. Since consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy, any related data is watched closely. Current forecasts are calling for an increase in sales of approximately 0.4%. A smaller than expected increase in sales would indicate consumers did not spend as much as thought over the holiday season, helping to prevent rapid economic growth. That would be considered good news for the bond market and mortgage rates.
The last two reports will be posted Friday morning. The first is November’s Goods and Services Trade Balance at 8:30 AM ET. It the week’s least important data and probably will not influence mortgage rates. It measures the size of the U.S. trade deficit and is expected to show a $44.3 billion trade deficit. This data usually does not directly affect mortgage rates, but it does influence the value of the U.S. dollar versus other currencies. A stronger dollar makes U.S. securities more attractive to international investors because they are worth more when sold and converted to the investor’s domestic currency. But unless we see a significant variance from forecasts, I don’t believe this data will lead to a change in mortgage rates Friday.
The final report of the week is January’s preliminary reading to the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment. This index measures consumer willingness to spend and often has enough of an impact on the financial markets to slightly change mortgage rates. Good news would be if it shows a reading weaker than the 75.0 that is expected. December’s final reading was 71.0, indicating that consumer sentiment likely rose this month. The bond market prefers to see waning confidence because if consumers are less optimistic about their own financial situations, they are less apt to make large purchases in the near future. Slowing spending levels limits fuel for economic growth, making long-term securities such as mortgage bonds more attractive to investors.
Overall, Thursday will likely turn out to be the most important day of the week due to the Retail Sales report but Wednesday’s Beige Book and 10-year Note auction may also cause some volatility in the markets. However, any day can become active if the stock markets show significant gains or losses. Therefore, I strongly recommend maintaining contact with your mortgage professional this week, especially the latter part if still floating an interest rate.