Princeton Capital Blog

This Week’s Market Commentary

July 25th, 2011

There are seven reports scheduled for release this week may affect mortgage pricing in addition to two relevant Treasury auctions, but despite all that, the current debt ceiling issue may take center stage. With no data scheduled for release today, the stock markets and updates out of Washington will drive the markets.

Friday evening’s collapse of talks on the topic happened after the markets closed, so it will be interesting to see how we fare this morning. I suspect it is going to be ugly if significant progress is not made in Washington. At posting time of this report, the Japan indexes are showing losses, but not by a concerning amount.

The economic data starts Tuesday when the Conference Board posts their Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) for July at 10:00 AM ET. This index measures consumer sentiment, giving us an idea of consumer willingness to spend. If consumers are more confident in their own financial situations, they are apt to make large purchases in the near future. This is important because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy. If the CCI reading is weaker than expected, meaning that consumers were less confident than thought, we may see bond prices rise and mortgage rates drop Tuesday. Current forecasts are calling for a reading of 56.0, which would be a lower reading than June’s 58.5 and indicate consumers are becoming less comfortable with their finances.

June’s New Home Sales will also be released late Tuesday morning. It gives us a measurement of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand. Analysts are expecting it to show a small increase in sales of newly constructed homes, indicating that the housing sector gained some strength. That would be considered negative news for bonds, but since this data tracks only 15% of all home sales it usually has little impact on the bond market and mortgage rates unless it varies greatly from forecasts.

Wednesday brings us two events that are relevant to mortgage rates. The first will come from the Commerce Department when they post June’s Durable Goods Orders at 8:30 AM ET. Current forecasts are currently calling for an increase in new orders of 0.4% from May to June. This data gives us an indication of manufacturing sector strength by tracking orders at U.S. factories for big-ticket items, or products that are expected to last three or more years. A stronger than expected number may lead to higher mortgage rates Wednesday morning. If it reveals a decline in new orders, mortgage rates should drop because it would indicate manufacturing weakness. It should be noted though that this data is known to be extremely volatile from month to month, so a minor difference between forecasts and the actual reading may not move mortgage rates much.

The Federal Reserve will release its Beige Book report Wednesday afternoon. This report is named simply after the color of its cover, but it is considered to be important to the Fed when determining monetary policy during their FOMC meetings. It details economic activity and conditions by region throughout the U.S. Since Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony to Congress two weeks ago gave us a recent update, I don’t think we will see any significant surprises in this report. Therefore, we will likely see little movement in mortgage rates Wednesday afternoon as a result of this report.

There is no relevant monthly or quarterly data scheduled for release Thursday, but there are three releases scheduled to be posted Friday morning. The first is the preliminary reading of the 2nd Quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is considered to be the best indicator of economic activity. It is the sum of all goods and services produced in the U.S. and usually has a great deal of influence on the financial markets. This reading is arguably the single most important we get regularly. Current forecasts are estimating that the economy grew at a 1.6% annual rate during the second quarter. A faster pace will probably hurt bond prices, leading to higher mortgage rates Friday. But a smaller than expected reading would likely fuel a bond market rally and lead to lower mortgage pricing.

The second report of the day Friday is the 2nd Quarter Employment Cost Index (ECI) that measures employers’ costs for wages and benefits. It is considered to be an important measurement of wage inflation and can impact the bond market and mortgage rates if it varies much from forecasts. If it shows a rapid increase, raising inflation concerns, the bond market may drop and mortgage rates rise. It is expected to reveal an increase of 0.5%, but the GDP reading likely will have more of an influence on the markets and mortgage rates.

Friday’s third piece of data is the final revision to July’s University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment that will help us measure consumer optimism about their own financial situations. As with Tuesday’s CCI release, this data is considered important because rising consumer confidence usually translates into higher levels of spending. This adds fuel to the economic recovery and is looked at as bad news for bonds. Friday’s release is an update to the preliminary reading we saw two weeks ago, so unless we see a drastic revision to the preliminary estimate, I think the markets will probably shrug this news off.

Also worth mentioning are a couple of Treasury auctions that may affect bond trading and mortgage rates this week. The two most important are Wednesday’s 5-year Note and Thursday’s 7-year Note sales. Results of this week’s auctions will be posted 1:00 PM ET each day. If investor interest is strong, we can expect the broader bond market to rally and mortgage rates to move lower. However, lackluster demand could lead to bond selling and higher mortgage rates Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Unless progress is made on the debt ceiling prior to these sales, it is highly unlikely that they will go well.

Overall, I am expecting an extremely active week in the financial and mortgage markets. With several important economic reports on tap, we will likely see noticeable movement in mortgage rates more than one day. The most important report of the week is Friday’s preliminary GDP reading, making it one of the most important days of the week. But it is difficult to say which day we can expect to see the most movement in rates as several of the releases and scheduled events have the potential to influence mortgage rates. The wild card is the debt ceiling. Any news on that topic will probably heavily influence the financial and mortgage markets. Therefore, I STRONGLY recommend maintaining contact with your mortgage professional this week if still floating an interest rate!

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