Princeton Capital Blog

This Week’s Market Commentary

October 17th, 2011

ben bernanke
Ben Bernanke

This week brings us the release of seven economic reports for the markets to digest, in addition to a speaking engagement by Fed Chairman Bernanke. Also worth noting is the fact that this will be an extremely busy week for corporate earnings, which usually translates into stock volatility.

The most important economic reports are scheduled for the middle part of the week, but we may see movement in mortgage rates each day. Intra-day revisions to mortgage rates on more than one day are also possible. Therefore, proceed with caution if closing in the near future.

Today has September’s Industrial Production data scheduled to be posted. It will be released mid-morning, giving us an indication of manufacturing strength by tracking output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities. It is expected to show a 0.2% increase in output from August’s level, meaning that manufacturing activity rose slightly.

A larger than expected increase in production would be negative for bonds and mortgage rates as it would indicate economic strength. A decline in output would likely push mortgage rates lower tomorrow morning.

September’s Producer Price Index (PPI) will be released early Tuesday morning. This is one of the two very important inflation readings we get each month. This index measures inflationary pressures at the producer level of the economy. Analysts are expecting to see a 0.2% increase in the overall index and a 0.1% rise in the core data reading. The core data is the more important of the two because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices. A larger than expected increase could raise concerns in the bond market about future inflation and lead to higher mortgage rates Tuesday. However, weaker than expected readings should result in lower rates.

Wednesday has three reports scheduled that may influence mortgage rates. The first is the sister report of Tuesday’s PPI. This would be September’s Consumer Price Index (CPI). It measures inflationary pressures at the more important consumer level of the economy and is one of the most important reports that the bond market gets each month. Analysts are expecting to see a rise of 0.3% in the overall index and an increase of 0.2% in the core data reading.

A larger than expected increase in the core reading could raise inflation concerns, pushing bond prices lower and mortgage rates higher. Inflation is the number one nemesis of the bond market because it erodes the value of a bond’s future fixed interest payments. When inflation is a threat, even down the road, bonds sell for discounted prices that push their yields higher. And since mortgage rates tend to follow bond yields, this leads to higher rates for mortgage borrowers.

September’s Housing Starts is Wednesday’s second release, also coming at 8:30 AM ET. This report will probably not have much of an impact on the bond market or mortgage rates. It gives us a measurement of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand by tracking construction starts of new homes, but is usually considered to be of low importance to the financial and mortgage markets. It is expected to show an increase in new home starts between August and September. I believe we need to see a significant surprise in this data for it to influence mortgage rates.

The final report scheduled for release Wednesday will come during afternoon trading when the Federal Reserve posts its’ Beige Book at 2:00 PM ET. This data details economic conditions throughout the U.S. by region and is relied upon heavily by the Federal Reserve when determining monetary policy at their FOMC meetings. If it reveals stronger signs of economic growth from the last release, we could see mortgage rates revise higher Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday has the last two reports of the week with the release of September’s Existing Home Sales data and Leading Economic Indicators (LEI), both at 10:00 AM ET. This index attempts to measure future economic activity, particularly during the next three to six months. Current forecasts are calling for an increase of 0.3% from August’s reading. This would indicate that economic activity is likely to increase moderately over the next couple of months. That would be relatively bad news for the bond market and mortgage rates, but this report is considered to be only moderately important. Therefore, a small increase would not be of much concern to the bond and mortgage markets. Ideally, we would like to see a decline in the index.

The National Association of Realtors will release September’s Existing Home Sales data. This report gives us an indication of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand by tracking home resales. I don’t see it having much of an influence on the bond market or mortgage rates, but a reading that varies greatly from analysts’ forecasts could lead to a slight change in mortgage pricing. It is expected to show a decline in sales from August to September, meaning the housing sector remained soft. That would be favorable news for the bond market since a weak housing sector makes a broader economic recovery less likely.

Overall, it appears that Tuesday or Wednesday are the likely candidates for the most important day of the week. In addition to the economic data Tuesday, Fed Chairman Bernanke will speak at a Boston Fed conference during early afternoon hours. This adds to the days’ value as his words always have the potential to cause volatility in the markets. Besides the economic reports, there are many companies posting earning reports during the week, including some big names that include Apple, Citigroup, IBM and Intel.

If the corporate earnings releases are generally weaker than forecasts, stocks may suffer, making bonds more appealing to investors. The end result would likely be an improvement in rates. The flip side though is stronger than expected earnings that drive stocks higher, pushing bond prices lower and mortgage rates upward. Accordingly, please maintain contact with your mortgage professional if still floating an interest rate.

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