May 13th, 2013
This week brings us the release of seven economic reports that may have the potential to influence mortgage rates. There is data scheduled to be posted four of the five days, including Monday. We saw plenty of movement in rates last week despite the lack of factual economic reports. Unfortunately for mortgage shoppers, they moved higher and this week may not be any different. Therefore, please proceed cautiously as this could be another ugly week for rates if the data gives us stronger than expected results.
The first piece of data this week is April’s Retail Sales at 8:30 AM ET Monday morning. This is an extremely important report for the financial markets since it measures consumer spending. Consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the U.S. economy, so this data can have a pretty significant impact on the markets. Current forecasts are calling for a 0.3% decline in sales from March to April. A weaker than expected level of sales should push bond prices higher and mortgage rates lower Monday morning as it would signal that economic activity may not be as strong as thought. However, an unexpected increase could renew theories of economic growth that would lead to more stock buying and bond selling that would push mortgage rates higher.
There is nothing of relevance scheduled for Tuesday, but Wednesday has two reports that we will be watching. April’s Producer Price Index (PPI) is the first at 8:30 AM ET. It helps us measure inflationary pressures at the producer level of the economy. If this report reveals weaker than expected readings, indicating inflation is not a concern at the producer level, we should see the bond market improve. The overall index is expected to fall 0.5%, while the core data that excludes more volatile food and energy prices has been forecasted to rise 0.1%. A decline in the core data would be ideal for mortgage shoppers because inflation is the number one nemesis for long-term securities such as mortgage-related bonds. As inflation rises, longer-term securities become less appealing to investors since inflation erodes the value of those securities’ future fixed interest payment. That is why the bond market tends to thrive in weaker economic conditions with low levels of inflation.
The second report of the day Wednesday is April’s Industrial Production at 9:15 AM ET. It measures manufacturing sector strength by tracking output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities. It is expected to show a 0.2% decline in production, indicating that manufacturing activity is growing. A larger than expected decrease in output would be good news for the bond market and mortgage rates because it would indicate that the manufacturing sector is not as strong as thought. This report is considered to be moderately important, so it will likely need to show unexpected strength or weakness to cause movement in mortgage rates. The PPI report will probably be the biggest influence on bond trading and mortgage rates Wednesday.
April’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) will also be posted at 8:30 AM ET Thursday. It is the sister report of Wednesday’s PPI report, but measures inflationary pressures at the more important consumer level of the economy. These results will be watched closely and could lead to significant volatility in the bond market and mortgage pricing if they show any surprises. Current forecasts are calling for a 0.2% decline in the overall index and a 0.2% rise in the core data reading. As with the PPI, the core data is the more important of the two readings and will help dictate mortgage rate direction.
Also early Thursday will be the release of April’s Housing Starts. This data measures housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand by tracking newly issued permits and actual starts of new home construction. It is expected to show a drop in new starts from March’s reading, hinting at housing sector weakness. However, since this report is not considered to be of high importance to the bond market, it likely will have little impact on mortgage rates unless it varies greatly from forecasts, especially with a key measurement of inflation being posted at the same time.
The last two pieces of data come late Friday morning. May’s preliminary reading to the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment will be released just before 10:00 AM ET Friday. This index measures consumer willingness to spend, which relates to consumer spending. If consumers are more confident in their own financial situations, they are more apt to make large purchases in the near future. This report usually has a moderate impact on the financial markets though, because it is not exactly factual data. It is expected to show a reading of 78.5, which would be an increase from April’s final reading, indicating consumers are more confident and more likely to spend than they were last month. If it shows a large decline in consumer confidence, bond prices could rise and mortgage rates would move slightly lower because waning confidence means consumers are less apt to make a large purchase in the near future.
The week’s calendar closes with the release of April’s Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) at 10:00 AM ET Friday. This Conference Board report attempts to predict economic activity over the next three to six months. It is expected to show a 0.3% increase from March’s reading, meaning that economic activity is likely to strengthen slightly over the next few months. A decline would be good news for the bond market and mortgage rates, while an increase could cause mortgage rates to inch higher Friday.
Overall, it is likely going to be an active week for the financial and mortgage markets. I am predicting Monday or Thursday will be the most important day for mortgage rates, but we could see noticeable movement in rates multiple days this week. The lightest day will likely be Tuesday unless it is an overly volatile day for stocks. Accordingly, I strongly recommend maintaining contact with your mortgage professional if still floating an interest rate and closing in the near future.