December 11th, 2011
This week is fairly busy in terms of the number of economic releases and other events scheduled that may influence mortgage rates. There are only four pieces of economic data for us to watch, but three of them are highly important to the markets.
In addition to the economic reports, we also have the last FOMC meeting of the year and two important Treasury auctions that are likely to impact bond trading and mortgage pricing. Those events, coupled with the likelihood of further overseas developments from Europe and possibly others, make it highly likely that we will see plenty of movement in the markets and mortgage rates this week.
Tuesday has two important events, starting with November’s Retail Sales report. This 8:30 AM ET release will give us a key measurement of consumer spending by tracking sales at retail level establishments. This data is highly important to the markets because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
Rapidly rising consumer spending raises the possibility of seeing solid economic growth. Since long-term securities such as mortgage bonds are usually more appealing to investors during weaker economic conditions, a large increase in retail sales will likely drive bond prices lower and mortgage rates higher Tuesday. Current forecasts are calling for an increase of 0.6% in November’s sales.
The last FOMC meeting of the year will also be held Tuesday, adjourning at 2:15 PM ET. There is not much debate about what the Fed will do at this meeting with no chance of them raising key short-term interest rates. Therefore, the post meeting statement will likely be the sole source of a market reaction. This statement has the potential to have a significant influence on the markets and mortgage rates as investors look for any indication of what and when the Fed may do next. One potential move would be more debt purchases by the Fed. An announcement of another round of quantitative easing (QE3) could help boost bond prices and improve mortgage rates Tuesday afternoon. Besides that, it is believed that there isn’t much more the Fed can do to help boost economic activity.
There are Treasury auctions scheduled for several days this week, but the two important ones are the 10-year Note sale Tuesday and the 30-year Bond sale Wednesday. Tuesday’s auction is the more important of the two and will likely influence mortgage rates more. Results of each sale will be posted at 1:00 PM ET. If they were met with a strong demand from investors, particularly international buyers, we should see afternoon strength in bonds and improvements to mortgage pricing those days. On the other hand, a weak interest in the auctions could lead to upward revisions to mortgage rates during afternoon hours.
Wednesday has little to be concerned with, except for the 30-year Bond auction. November’s Producer Price Index (PPI) will be posted early Thursday morning. It measures inflationary pressures at the producer level of the economy. There are two portions of the index that are used- the overall reading and the core data reading. The core data is the more important of the two because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices.
If Thursday’s release reveals stronger than expected readings, indicating that inflationary pressures are rising, the bond market will probably react negatively and drive mortgage rates higher. If we see in-line or weaker than expected numbers, the bond market should respond well and mortgage rates should fall. Current forecasts are showing a 0.2% increase in the overall index and a 0.1% rise in the core data.
November’s Industrial Production data is also scheduled to be posted Thursday morning, but a little later than the PPI. This report gives us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength by tracking output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities. Analysts are expecting it to show a 0.2% increase in output, indicating modest manufacturing growth. A smaller than expected rise would be good news for bonds, while a stronger reading may result in slightly higher mortgage pricing. However, the PPI release is more important to the markets than this data is.
The week’s most important economic data comes Friday morning when November’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is posted. It is similar to Thursday’s Producer Price Index, except it tracks inflationary pressures at the more important consumer level of the economy. Current forecasts call for an increase of 0.1% in the overall index and a 0.1% rise in the core data reading. The core data is watched more closely because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices, giving a more stable reading for analysts to consider. This data is one of the most watched inflation indexes, which is extremely important to long-term securities such as mortgage related bonds. Rising inflation erodes the value of a bond’s future fixed interest payments, making them less appealing to investors. That translates into falling bond prices and rising mortgage rates.
Overall, I am expecting to see a much more active week in the financial markets and mortgage pricing than last week. The most important day of the week is either Tuesday or Friday due to the reports being posted those days and the FOMC meeting scheduled. Please maintain contact with your mortgage professional if you have not locked an interest rate yet because we may see sizable changes to mortgage pricing more than one day this week.