July 29th, 2013
This week brings us the release of seven economic reports that may impact mortgage rates, some of which are considered to be highly influential. In addition to the economic data, there is also another FOMC meeting that certainly has the potential to cause chaos in the financial and mortgage markets. There is important data scheduled every day except Monday, so there is a strong likelihood of seeing noticeable mortgage rate movement several days and possibly multiple intra-day revisions.
The first economic data of the week comes late Tuesday morning 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 and employment situations, they are apt to make large purchases in the near future. This is important because consumer spending makes up such a large portion of our economy. If the CCI reading is weaker than expected, meaning that consumers were less confident than thought and likely will delay making a large personal purchase, we may see bond prices rise and mortgage rates drop Tuesday morning. Current forecasts are calling for a reading of 81.6, which would be a slightly higher reading than June’s 81.4 and indicate consumers are a little more comfortable with their finances than they were last month.
Wednesday morning has two reports scheduled but one is much more important to the markets than the other. The extremely important report is the preliminary reading of the 2nd Quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is considered to be the best indicator of economic growth or weakness. It is the total of all goods and services that are 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 report we get regularly. Current forecasts are estimating that the economy grew at a 1.1% annual rate during the second quarter. A faster pace will probably hurt bond prices, leading to higher mortgage rates Wednesday. But a smaller than expected reading would likely fuel a bond market rally and lead to lower mortgage pricing since it would indicate the economy was not as strong as many had thought.
The second report Wednesday will be Employee Productivity and Costs data for the second quarter, also at 8:30 AM ET. It will give us an indication of employee output per hour worked. 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, partly because it comes the same time as the GDP reading. Analysts are currently expecting to see an increase in productivity of 0.4%. A large increase in productivity and a decline in costs would be ideal news for mortgage rates, but I suspect that this data will have little impact on Wednesday’s mortgage rates.
The fifth FOMC meeting of the year is a two-day event that will begin Tuesday and will adjourn at 2:00 PM ET Wednesday. This is not a meeting that will be followed by a press conference with Chairman Bernanke. The meeting is expected to yield no change to key interest rates, but there is speculation that the post meeting statement may clarify the Fed’s position or estimation of when they will begin to slow their current $85 billion monthly bond buying program (QE3). This topic has caused a firestorm in the markets multiple times over the past two months, and not always logically. Therefore, it is difficult to make a prediction of what to expect. Theoretically, we would like to hear something that would hint the Fed will not start tapering their purchases in September as many analysts currently believe. One would think that since the current consensus had September as the beginning, hearing it again would not have a negative impact on the bond market. Unfortunately, logic and history does not seem to be a good indicator on how the markets will react to such news recently. That leaves us little to base a prediction on, other than to hold our breath and hope sanity quickly returns to the markets.
Thursday has only one report worth watching and it is one of the more important monthly reports we get. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) will release their manufacturing index for July late Thursday morning. This index measures manufacturer sentiment by surveying trade executives about business conditions during the month and is considered to be of high importance to the markets. One reason it draws so much attention is that this report is the first released each month that tracks the preceding month’s activity. A reading above 50.0 means more surveyed executives felt that business improved this month than those who said it had worsened. June’s reading came in at 50.9, above that important threshold. Thursday’s release is expected to show a reading of 51.5, meaning surveyed executives felt business conditions improved from June to July. Ideally, we would like to see a decline as it would point towards a softening manufacturing sector, especially is it falls below 50.0.
Friday has three reports scheduled for release that are likely to influence bond trading and mortgage pricing. The first is arguably the most important report we see each month when the Labor Department posts their monthly Employment report for July. 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 best scenario for the bond market is rising unemployment, a sizable loss of jobs and little change in earnings.
While many believe the preliminary reading to the GDP is 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 7.5% last month while approximately 175,000 jobs were added to the economy. 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 following their 8:30 AM ET posting.
June’s Personal Income and Outlays data will also be posted early Friday morning. This report helps us measure consumer ability to spend and current spending habits. If it shows sizable increases, bond selling could lead to higher mortgage rates. Current forecasts are calling for an increase of 0.5% in income and a 0.4% rise in spending. A larger than expected increase in income means consumers have more funds to spend, which is not favorable to bonds because consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the U.S. economy. We would like to see declines in spending and income that would indicate economic weakness, but the smaller the increase in each, the better the news for mortgage rates.
The third report of the day and final release of the week will be June’s Factory Orders data at 10:00 AM ET Friday. 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 much of an impact on the markets. Analysts are expecting to see an increase in new orders of approximately 2.2%. A smaller than expected increase would be considered good news for bonds and mortgage pricing, but due to the importance of the morning’s other data, I don’t believe this report will have much of an influence on Friday’s mortgage rates, regardless of its results.
Overall, I am expecting to see an extremely active week for financial markets and mortgage rates. I think that the most important day is either going to be Wednesday due to the GDP release and FOMC adjournment or Friday with July’s employment numbers being posted. The least important day is Monday since nothing of importance is scheduled. I suspect we will see plenty of movement in not only mortgage rates, but also the financial markets in general this week. If still floating an interest rate, I would definitely maintain constant contact with my mortgage professional as it is going to be an interesting five days.