April 22nd, 2013
This week has five pieces of economic data for the markets to digest in addition to two potentially relevant Treasury auctions. The week’s data starts late Monday morning with the release of March’s Existing Homes Sales numbers from the National Association of Realtors at 10:00 AM ET. This report gives us an indication of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand. It is considered to be moderately important to the markets, but can influence mortgage pricing if it shows a sizable variance from forecasts. Ideally, the bond market would like to see a drop in home resales because a soft housing sector makes a broader economic recovery difficult. Analysts are expecting to see a small increase in sales between February and March. The larger the increase, the worse the news it is for bonds and mortgage rates.
The sister report to Monday housing data is March’s New Home Sales. It will be released late Tuesday morning, but tracks a much smaller portion of all home sales as Monday’s report does. It also gives us an indication of housing sector strength and future mortgage credit demand, however, it is the week’s least important report. Unless it varies greatly from analysts’ forecasts, I am not expecting the data to cause much movement in mortgage rates. Analysts are currently forecasting an increase in sales of newly constructed homes.
Wednesday morning’s data is March’s Durable Goods Orders that will be released at 8:30 AM ET. This report gives us an indication of manufacturing sector strength by tracking orders for big-ticket items at U.S. factories. These are products that are expected to last three or more years, such as appliances and electronics. Current forecasts are calling for a decline in new orders of 3.1%. This would be a sign of manufacturing sector contraction, but this data can be quite volatile from month-to-month. Therefore, a small variance between forecasts and the actual results will not heavily influence the markets or mortgage rates. A much larger decline would be considered good news for bonds and mortgage pricing, while a large increase would indicate manufacturing sector strength. A sign of solid manufacturing growth could lead to higher mortgage rates Wednesday.
In addition to this week’s economic reports, there are two relatively important Treasury auctions that may also influence bond trading enough to affect mortgage rates. There will be an auction of 5-year Notes Wednesday and 7-year Notes on Thursday. Neither of these sales will directly impact mortgage pricing, but they can influence general bond market sentiment. If the sales go poorly, we could see broader selling in the bond market that leads to upward revisions to mortgage rates. On the other hand, strong sales usually make bonds more attractive to investors and bring more funds into bonds. The buying of bonds that follows usually translates into lower mortgage rates. Results of the sales will be posted at 1:00 PM ET each auction day, so look for any reaction to come during afternoon hours.
Friday has the two remaining reports, one of which is highly important to the financial and mortgage markets. That would be the preliminary version of the 1st Quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is arguably the single most important report that we see on a regular basis. The GDP is the sum of all products and services produced in the U.S. and is considered to be the best measure of economic growth or contraction. I expect this report to cause sizable movement in the financial markets Friday and therefore the mortgage market also. Analysts are expecting it to show that the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.9%, which would be a much quicker pace than the final quarter of last year. A smaller increase would be considered good news for mortgage rates. But, a stronger than expected reading would almost certainly cause stock prices to rise and bond prices to fall, leading to higher mortgage rates Friday morning.
The last piece of a data is the University of Michigan’s update to their Index of Consumer Sentiment for April. This report gives us an indication of consumer sentiment. I don’t expect it to have a significant impact on bonds and mortgage pricing unless it varies greatly from forecasts, especially since it comes after the GDP reading. Current forecasts are calling for little change from the preliminary reading of 72.3. This means that surveyed consumers were just as optimistic about their own financial situations as they were earlier this month. This data is relevant because rising sentiment means consumers are more apt to make a large purchase in the near future, fueling economic growth.
Overall, look for a fair amount of movement in the financial markets and mortgage rates this week. Friday is the most important day due to the GDP, but we should see movement in rates several days, particularly days that stocks are active. Tuesday appears to be the best candidate for the quietest day for mortgage rates. If this week’s reports reveal weaker than expected economic conditions, the bond market could extend its recent rally and mortgage rates should fall for the week. However, I recommend taking a cautious approach towards rates if still floating an interest rate and closing in the near future.