Princeton Capital Blog

This Week’s Market Commentary

August 1st, 2011

There are four relevant reports scheduled for release this week that are likely to affect mortgage pricing, but it may end up being news out of Washington that may have the biggest impact on the markets and mortgage rates. As of this evening, there appears to be much more progress being made on the debt ceiling issue than we have seen yet. There actually have been rumors of an agreement in general between the House and Senate, which could mean a finished deal by Tuesday’s default deadline is possible.

The stock markets took a beating last week, even before the surprisingly weak GDP reading Friday morning. The potential for a default on our debt and the credit downgrade that would have followed was expected to have a huge negative impact on our economy. That led to stock selling most of the week, and support in the bond market, although we did see softness in bonds at times also. The big day for bonds came Friday after the 2nd Quarter GDP reading fell well short of forecasts and a significant downward revision to the 1st Quarter reading fueled a sizable rally in bonds that gained momentum during afternoon trading. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury Note fell below 3.80%, causing many lenders to revise rates even lower late Friday.

Friday’s rally caught us off guard a bit. That is one way of describing it. Another is to use the word unjustified. We certainly got bond-friendly news out of the GDP report, but I think we saw more flight-to-safety buying than long-term buying due to weak economic conditions. That is evident by the afternoon surge in bonds Friday that pushed yields below recent levels. The flight-to-safety is a bonus for mortgage shoppers closing in the very near future, but extremely problematic for borrowers that need a couple weeks or months before they go to closing. Time and time again (duplicate that many more times), we see gains from several trading sessions of flight-to-safety buying unwind in a single day of trading. In other words, rates can give back last week’s gains, and some, much quicker than they were able to capture them as soon as stocks appear ready to head higher. A resolution to the debt ceiling issue is definitely a strong enough event to do this. If the threat of a credit downgrade and default dissolves, I would not be surprised to see a couple hundred point gain in the Dow over a single, maybe two, trading sessions. That would likely cause most of the flight-to-safety funds to shift away from bonds and back into stocks. And a noticeable upward move in mortgage rates.

In addition to the debt ceiling topic, we do have a couple of extremely important economic reports for the markets to digest. The first important release is the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index for July late tomorrow morning. This index measures manufacturer sentiment by surveying trade executives about business conditions during the month and is considered to be of fairly high importance to the markets. A reading above 50.0 means that more surveyed executives felt that business improved last month than those who said it had worsened.

Wednesday morning brings us the release of June’s Factory Orders data at 10:00 AM ET. It helps us measure manufacturing sector strength by tracking orders for both durable and non-durable goods during the month of June. It is similar to last week’s Durable Goods Orders report that tracks orders for big-ticket items only. Since a significant portion of the data was released last week, this report likely will not have as big of an impact on the markets as last week’s did. Analysts are expecting to see a decline in new orders of approximately 1.0%. A larger than expected drop would be considered good news for bonds and mortgage pricing.

There is no relevant monthly or quarterly economic news scheduled for release Thursday, but Friday is a different story. The most important piece of data this week and arguably each month is the monthly Employment report. This report gives us the U.S. unemployment rate, number of jobs added or lost during the month and the average hourly earnings reading for July. The ideal situation for the bond market is rising unemployment, a sizable loss of jobs and little change in earnings.

While the preliminary reading to the GDP is arguably the single most important report in general, it is posted quarterly rather than monthly like the Employment report. Friday’s report is expected to show that the unemployment rate slipped 0.1% to 9.1% last month while approximately 78,000 jobs were added to the economy. The unemployment rate probably will not be much of a factor unless it moved much more than the 0.1% that is expected. However, due to the importance of these readings, we will most likely see quite a bit of volatility in the markets and mortgage pricing Friday morning if they vary from forecasts.

Overall, I am expecting to see another extremely active week for mortgage rates. I think that the most important day is tomorrow due to the debt ceiling crisis coming to a head and the ISM index being posted. Friday is also a key day with the monthly Employment report being released. We may see some pressure in bonds mid to late week ahead of Friday’s employment numbers (assuming Washington puts the debt ceiling issue to bed), but we also need to watch the stock markets for significant moves that can influence bond trading. We are getting key economic data during a period of great uncertainty about our economy with a major national crisis climaxing at the same time. If still floating an interest rate, I would definitely maintain constant contact with my mortgage professional. And hold on tight, it’s going to be quite an interesting week!

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