Princeton Capital Blog

This Week’s Market Commentary

July 11th, 2011

This week brings us the release of seven important economic reports for the bond market to digest in addition to the minutes from the last FOMC meeting, two relevant Treasury auctions and semi-annual Congressional testimony by Fed Chairman Bernanke.

Several of the economic reports are considered to be of high importance, meaning we will likely see more volatility in the financial markets and mortgage pricing over the next several days. There are also some heavily watched corporate earnings releases scheduled for the stock markets this week that can influence bond trading and therefore, mortgage pricing. In other words, we are in for a heck of a week.

The first data of the week is May’s Goods and Services Trade Balance report early Tuesday morning, which measures the size of the U.S. trade deficit. This data is not considered to be of high importance to the bond market and will not likely have an impact on mortgage rates. However, if it does vary greatly from analysts’ forecasts of a $44.0 billion deficit, we may see some movement in bond prices and possibly a slight change in mortgage pricing. This is the least important of this week’s economic data.

Also worth noting about Tuesday is the afternoon release of the minutes from the last FOMC meeting. There is a possibility of the markets reacting to them following their 2:00 PM ET release, especially if they show unexpected dissention among some of its members during discussion and voting at the last meeting or give any indication of the Fed’s possible next move with monetary policy.

There is no relevant economic data scheduled for release Wednesday, but Fed Chairman Bernanke will present his semi-annual update about the economy and monetary policy before Congress. He will speak before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday and the Senate Banking Committee Thursday, each at 10:00am ET. His testimony will be broadcast and watched very closely.

Analysts and traders will be looking for the status of the economy and his expectations of future growth, particularly inflation and unemployment concerns that will lead to changes in key short-term interest rates. This should create a great deal of volatility in the markets during the prepared testimony and the question and answer session that follows. If he indicates that inflation may become a point of concern or anything that hints at rapid economic growth, we can expect to see the bond market fall and mortgage rates rise Wednesday.

We usually see the most movement in rates during the first day of this testimony as the Chairman’s prepared words for both appearances are quite similar to each other, meaning that the second day of testimony rarely gives us anything we did not hear during the first day. The general exception is something asked or answered during the Q&A portion of the second day’s appearance.

Wednesday also starts the first of the two important Treasury auctions when 10-year Notes will be sold. That sale will be followed by a 30-year Bond auction Thursday. These sales can influence market trading in bonds and possibly affect mortgage rates. If the sales are met with a strong demand from investors, particularly Wednesday’s sale, we should see afternoon improvements in bonds that could lead to downward revisions to mortgage rates. However, if concern about the amount of debt that is being sold keeps buyers on the sidelines, we may see bonds fall after results are posted at 1:00 PM ET and mortgage rates move higher those days.

In addition to the second day of testimony and the 30-year Bond auction, Thursday does have some key economic data being posted. The first is June’s Producer Price Index (PPI) from the Labor Department. It is a very important release because it measures inflationary pressures at the producer level of the economy. It is expected to show a 0.3% decline in the overall reading and a 0.2% increase in the core data reading. The core reading is the more important of the two because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices. The bond market should react quite favorably if we get weaker than expected readings, but a larger than expected rise in the core reading could send mortgage rates higher Thursday.

June’s Retail Sales report will also be posted at 8:30 AM ET Thursday morning. This data is considered to be of high importance because it measures consumer spending. Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy, so any related data is watched closely. The Commerce Department is expected to say that sales at retail establishments fell 0.2% last month. A larger than expected decline in sales could help fuel a bond rally and lead to lower mortgage rates because it would mean that the economy is likely weaker than thought.

Friday has the remaining three economic releases, beginning with what arguably is the single most important monthly report for the bond market. That is June’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) at 8:30 AM ET, which is a mirror of Thursday’s PPI with the exception that the CPI measures inflation at the more important consumer level of the economy. Analysts have forecasted a 0.1% decline in the overall index and a 0.2% rise in the core data. The core data is considered to be the key reading because it gives us a more stable measure of inflation. Higher than expected readings could raise inflation fears and push mortgage rates higher, while readings that fall short of forecasts should lead to lower rates Friday.

June’s Industrial Production data is the second report of the day at 9:15 AM ET. This data measures output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities, giving us an indication of manufacturing sector strength. It is expected to show a 0.2% rise in production, indicating that the manufacturing sector strengthened slightly during the month. That would basically be bad news for bonds, however, the CPI will take center stage Friday morning.

The final report of the week is the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment. This index is released in a preliminary form each month and then followed up two weeks later with a final reading. The preliminary reading for July will be posted late Friday morning and is expected to drop slightly from June’s final reading of 71.5. This would indicate that consumers were a little less comfortable with their own financial situations this month than last month. It is believed that if consumers are confident in their own finances, they are more apt to make large purchases in the near future. And with consumer spending making up two-thirds of our economy, investors pay close attention to reports such as these. So, a decline in confidence would be good news for mortgage rates because it means many consumers will probably delay making a large purchase in the immediate future, limiting economic activity.

Also worth noting is the fact that tomorrow kicks off the corporate earnings reporting season when Alcoa posts their quarterly results. Market participants are anxiously waiting for these announcements to see how the economy is affecting earnings. Just as important as this past quarter’s results are their forward-looking estimates. If revenue, earnings and projections from the big-named companies exceed expectations, stocks will likely rally.

This would make bonds less appealing to investors and lead to bond selling. But if results are weaker than expected, indicating that the economy is stifling earnings, bonds will be more attractive to investors as stocks slide. That could help boost bond prices and help lower mortgage rates.

Overall, it is difficult to try to label one particular day as the most important this week. It is easy to say the least important will likely be tomorrow, but every other day has important data or other events that can cause significant movement in the markets and mortgage rates. The single most important report for the bond market is the CPI Friday morning, but Thursday’s data is not far behind. Wednesday’s Bernanke testimony could be huge also. The week’s corporate earnings also have the potential to heavily influence bond trading and mortgage rates via stock market swings. Therefore, it is highly recommended to maintain fairly constant contact with your mortgage professional this week if still floating an interest rate.

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