August 8th, 2011
This week brings us the release of four relevant economic reports in addition to another FOMC meeting and two relevant Treasury auctions. With all of the volatility in the markets of the past two weeks, it is difficult to say whether this will be an active week for mortgage rates. Under normal circumstances, it would be. But it is hard to label any week as active if comparing to the previous two.
The first economic data of the week is Employee Productivity and Costs data for the second quarter that will be released Tuesday morning. It will give us an indication of employee output per hour. High levels of productivity are believed to allow the economy to grow without fears of inflation. I don’t see this being a big mover of mortgage pricing, but since it is the only data of the day it may influence rates slightly during morning trading. Analysts are currently expecting to see a decline in productivity of 0.6% and a 2.2% jump in labor costs. A stronger than expected productivity reading and a smaller than expected increase in costs could help improve bonds, leading to lower mortgage rates Tuesday.
The FOMC meeting is a single-day event that will be held Tuesday and will adjourn at 2:15 PM ET. It is expected to yield no change to key interest rates. Usually, the post-meeting comments seem to have more of an influence on the markets than the rate adjustments themselves, or a lack of one in many cases. Look for the statement to lead to volatility during afternoon trading if it hints at what the Fed’s next move may be and when it will come. Market participants will be looking for any indication of a move to help boost economic activity. If the statement does not give us new information, mortgage rates will probably move little after its release.
There is no important economic data on the calendar for Wednesday. June’s Trade Balance report will be released early Thursday morning. It gives us the size of the U.S. trade deficit but is the week’s least important report and likely will have little impact on the bond market and mortgage rates. Analysts are expecting to see a $48.0 billion deficit, but it will take a wide variance to directly influence mortgage pricing.
Friday has the remaining two pieces of economic data, one of which is highly important to the markets and mortgage rates. July’s Retail Sales data is that report. This data is very important to the financial markets and mortgage rates because it helps us measure consumer spending. Since consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy, any data related to it can cause a fair amount of movement in the markets. A smaller than expected increase would indicate that consumers are spending less than previously thought, potentially further slowing the economic recovery. This is good news for the bond market and mortgage rates as it eases inflation concerns and makes long-term securities such as mortgage-related bonds more attractive to investors. Current forecasts are calling for an increase of 0.5%.
The last report of the day will come from the University of Michigan, who will release their Index of Consumer Sentiment for August at 9:55 AM. This index gives us a measurement of consumer willingness to spend. If confidence is rising, then consumers are more apt to make large purchases. This helps fuel consumer spending and economic growth. By theory, a drop in confidence should boost bond prices, but this data is considered moderately important and carries much less significance than the Retail Sales report does. Analysts are expecting to see a reading of 62.5, which would be a decline from July’s revised reading.
Also worth noting are two important Treasury auctions this week. The sale of 10-year Notes will be held Wednesday while 30-year Bonds will be sold Thursday. We often see some weakness in bonds ahead of the sales as the firms participating prepare for them. However, as long as they are met with decent demand from investors, the firms usually buy them back. This tends to help recover any presale losses. But, if the sales are met with a lackluster interest from investors- particularly international buyers, the bond market may move lower after the results are posted and mortgage rates may move higher. Those results will be announced at 1:00 PM each sale day.
Overall, it is difficult to label one particular day as the most important. Friday’s sales data is the most important economic report, but Tuesday’s FOMC meeting has the potential to cause plenty of movement in the markets and mortgage pricing also. Tomorrow will also be interesting, especially considering the size of the sell-off in bonds Friday. I would not be surprised to see that negative tone extend into tomorrow’s bond trading and mortgage rates. I suspect the FOMC meeting will not have as much of an influence on mortgage rates as one may expect, but the markets can react wildly to a single word or omission of a word in the statement, so we need to be cautious. This is certainly another week that continuous contact with your mortgage professional is highly recommended if you are still floating an interest rate.