Princeton Capital Blog

This Week’s Market Commentary

January 2nd, 2012

This week bring us the release of only three monthly reports that are relevant to the bond market and mortgage rates, but two of them are considered to be highly important.

In addition to those three reports, we also will get the minutes from the last FOMC meeting that may influence the markets and possibly mortgage rates. The financial markets are closed today due to the New Year’s Day holiday.

The first report is the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index for December late tomorrow morning. This highly important index measures manufacturer sentiment. A reading above 50 means that more surveyed manufacturing executives felt that business improved during the month than those who felt it had worsened.

That indicates manufacturing sector strength rather than contraction. Analysts are currently expecting to see a 53.4 reading in this month’s release, meaning that sentiment strengthened from November’s 52.7. A smaller reading will be good news for the bond market and mortgage shoppers, while a higher than expected reading could lead to higher mortgage rates tomorrow morning as it would point towards economic strength.

Also tomorrow is the release of the minutes from the last FOMC meeting. This will give market participants insight to the Fed’s thinking and concerns regarding the economy, inflation and monetary policy. It is one of those pieces of information that may cause a great deal of volatility in the markets or be a non-factor, depending on what the minutes show. They will be released at 2:00 PM ET, so they won’t affect the markets or mortgage rates until afternoon hours.

The Commerce Department will post November’s Factory Orders data late Wednesday morning. This data gives us a fairly important measurement of manufacturing sector strength. It is similar to the Durable Goods Orders release that was posted late last week, except this report includes orders for both durable and non-durable goods. Durable goods are items that are expected to last three or more years such as electronics and autos. Examples of non-durable goods are food and clothing. Analysts are expecting to see an increase of 2.1% in new orders. This report generally does not have a huge impact on the bond market or mortgage rates, but it can influence bond trading enough to create a minor change in rates. The smaller the increase, the better the news for mortgage rates.

The final report of the week comes Friday morning when the Labor Department will post December’s employment figures. The Employment report is arguably the most important monthly release we see. It gives us the national unemployment rate, the number of jobs added or lost during the month and average hourly earnings, which is a key measure of wage inflation. Rising unemployment, a decline in payrolls and earnings would be ideal news for the bond market.

Current forecasts call for a 0.1% rise from November’s unemployment rate of 8.6%, 150,000 new jobs added to the economy and an increase in earnings of 0.2%. If we see weaker than expected results, mortgage rates should improve Friday. However, stronger than expected readings will likely raise optimism about the economy, pushing mortgage rates sharply higher.

Overall, the key data of the week will be Friday’s Employment report, but look for tomorrow and Wednesday to be active due to the economic data and FOMC minutes scheduled. If they give us favorable results, mortgage rates will likely move lower for the week. But if not, we can expect to see mortgage rates move higher on the week.

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