April 11th, 2011
This week brings us the release of seven relevant economic reports for the bond market to digest. We are also heading into corporate earnings season, which could lead to fluctuations in the stock markets.
If earnings come in lighter than estimates, the stock markets may fall, leading to an influx of funds into bonds. But if earnings and forecasts are strong, the major stock indexes may rally, pulling funds from bonds and leading to higher mortgage rates.
There is no relevant economic news scheduled for release tomorrow. The first report of the week comes Tuesday morning but it is the least important one. February’s Goods and Service Trade Balance will be posted early Tuesday morning. This data gives us the size of the U.S. trade deficit, but unless it varies greatly from forecasts, it likely will not cause much movement in mortgage rates. Current forecasts show a $45.7 billion trade deficit.
The first important report will be posted early Wednesday morning when the Commerce Department will release March’s Retail Sales data. This piece of data gives us a measurement of consumer spending, which is very important because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy. Forecasts are calling for a 0.5% increase in sales last month. If we see a larger increase in spending, the bond market will likely fall and mortgage rates will rise. However, a weaker than expected reading could push bond prices higher and mortgage rates lower Wednesday.
The Federal Reserve will post its Fed Beige Book report at 2:00 PM ET Wednesday. This report is named simply after the color of its cover and details economic conditions throughout the U.S. by region. Since the Fed relies heavily on the contents of this report during their FOMC meetings, its results can have a fairly big impact on the financial markets and mortgage rates if it reveals any significant surprises. Generally speaking, signs of strong economic growth or inflation rising would be considered negative for bonds and mortgage rates. Slowing economic conditions with little sign of inflationary pressures would be considered favorable for bonds and mortgage pricing.
The two Treasury auctions are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. There is a 10-year Treasury Note sale Wednesday and a 30-year Bond sale Thursday. We could see some weakness in bonds ahead of the sales as investing firms sell current holdings to prepare for them. This weakness is usually only temporary if the sales are met with a decent demand. The results of the auctions will be posted at 1:00 PM ET each day. If the demand from investors was strong, the bond market could rally during afternoon trading, leading to lower mortgage rates. If the sales were met with a poor demand, the afternoon weakness may cause upward revisions to mortgage pricing Wednesday and/or Thursday afternoon.
Thursday’s important data comes when the Labor Department will post March’s Producer Price Index (PPI) at 8:30 AM ET. It will give us an important measurement of inflationary pressures at the producer level of the economy. There are two portions of the report that analysts watch- the overall reading and the core data reading. The core data is more important to market participants because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices. If it shows rapidly rising prices, inflation fears may hurt bond prices since it erodes the value of a bond’s future fixed interest payments, leading to higher mortgage rates. A slight increase, or better yet a decline in prices, would be good news for the bond market and mortgage rates. Current forecasts are calling for a 1.0% increase in the overall reading and a 0.2% rise in the core data.
The remaining three economic reports will all be posted Friday morning. This first will be March’s Consumer Price Index (CPI). This index is one of the most important pieces of data we see each month. It is similar to Thursday’s PPI but measures inflationary pressures at the consumer level of the economy. If inflation is rapidly rising, bonds become less appealing to investors, leading to bond selling and higher mortgage rates. As with the PPI, there are two readings in the index that traders watch. Analysts are expecting to see a 0.5% increase in the overall readings and a 0.2% rise in the core reading. If we see larger increases, we could get higher mortgage rates Friday.
March’s Industrial Production data will be posted at 9:15 AM ET Friday. It gives us a measurement of output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities, translating into an indication of manufacturing sector strength. Current forecasts are calling for an increase in production of 0.6%. This data is considered to be only moderately important to rates, so it will take more than just a slight variance to influence bond trading and mortgage pricing.
The final release of the week is the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment at 9:55 AM ET Friday. Their consumer sentiment index will give us an indication of consumer confidence, which hints at consumers’ willingness to spend. If confidence is rising, consumers are more apt to make large purchases. But, if they are growing more concerned of their personal financial situations, they probably will delay making that large purchase. This influences future consumer spending data and can have a moderate impact on the financial markets. Good news would be a sizable decline from March’s 67.5 reading. Current forecasts are calling for a reading of approximately 66.0.
Overall, look for the most movement in rates the middle part of the week. The Retail Sales and CPI reports are the biggest names on the agenda. Either of them can cause significant movement in the markets and mortgage rates, so either Wednesday or Friday will probably be the most active day of the week. Look for the stock markets to influence bond trading and mortgage rates the first part of the week, but we can expect to see the most movement in rates the latter part.