March 25th, 2013
This week brings us the release of six pieces of relevant economic data along with two Treasury auctions that have the potential to affect mortgage rates. This is also a holiday-shortened week with the bond market scheduled to close early Thursday and remain closed Friday in observance of the Good Friday holiday. The stock markets will be closed Friday only.
Monday’s only event is a speaking engagement by Fed Chairman Bernanke early afternoon. He will be speaking at the London School of Economics at 1:15 PM ET Monday. The topic of his speech is what was learned from the past financial crisis. I am not expecting this to be a market moving appearance, but anytime he does speak, the markets listen. Therefore, we will be watching for any reaction to his words.
There are three pieces of data set for release Tuesday. The first will come from the Commerce Department at 8:30 AM ET, who will post February’s Durable Goods Orders. This report gives us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength by tracking new orders for big-ticket items, or products that are expected to last three or more years such as electronics, appliances and airplanes. This data is known to be volatile from month to month but is still considered to be of fairly high importance to the markets. Analysts are expecting it to show an increase in new orders of approximately 3.8%. A much larger increase would be considered negative for bonds as it would indicate economic strength and could lead to higher mortgage rates Tuesday morning.
March’s Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) will be posted at 10:00 AM ET Tuesday morning. This index gives us an indication of consumers’ willingness to spend. Bond traders watch this data closely because consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of our economy. If this report shows that confidence in their own financial situations is falling, it would indicate that consumers are less apt to make a large purchase in the near future. If it reveals that confidence looks to be growing, we may see bond traders sell as economic growth may rise, pushing mortgage rates higher Tuesday morning. It is expected to show a decline from February’s 69.0 reading to 66.9 for March. The lower the reading, the better the news it is for bonds and mortgage rates.
The Commerce Department will also give us February’s New Home Sales figures late Tuesday morning. They are expected to announce a small decline in sales of newly constructed homes. This report tracks a much smaller percentage of home sales than last week’s Existing Home Sales report covered, so it should have a much weaker influence on the markets and mortgage pricing. A large increase in sales would be negative for the bond market and mortgage pricing because it would point towards economic strength.
The next relevant data is Thursday’s final revision to the 4th Quarter GDP. This is the second and final revision to January’s preliminary reading of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, or the sum of all goods and services produced in the U.S. It is expected to show that the economy grew at an annual pace of 0.3% last quarter, up slightly from the previous estimate of 0.1% that was released last month. Analysts are now more concerned with next month’s preliminary reading of the 1st quarter than data from three to six months ago, so I don’t expect this report to affect mortgage rates much.
Friday has two reports that could affect mortgage rates, but since the financial and mortgage markets will be closed we will have to wait for next Monday to see them react to these reports. The first is February’s Personal Income & Outlays report early Friday morning. This data helps us measure consumers’ ability to spend and current spending habits, which is important to the mortgage market because of the influence that consumer spending- related information has on the financial markets. If a consumer’s income is rising, they are more likely to make additional purchases in the near future. This raises inflation concerns, adds fuel for economic growth and has a negative effect on the bond market and mortgage rates. Current forecasts are calling for a 0.8% increase in income and a 0.6% rise in spending. Smaller than expected increases would be ideal for bond traders and mortgage shoppers.
The final report of the week comes from the University of Michigan just before 10:00 AM ET Friday. Their revision to their March Consumer Sentiment Index will give us another indication of consumer confidence, which hints at consumers’ willingness to spend. As with Tuesday’s CCI report, rising confidence is considered bad news for the bond market and mortgage pricing. Friday’s report is expected to show a small increase from the preliminary reading of 71.8. Favorable results for bonds and mortgage rates would be a decline in confidence.
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. However, strong sales usually make bonds more attractive to investors and bring more funds into the bond market. The buying of bonds that follows often translates into lower mortgage rates. Results of the sales will be posted at 1:00 PM ET auction day, so look for any reaction to come during afternoon hours.
Overall, I believe Tuesday will be the most active day for mortgage rates with three reports scheduled, including the week’s most important (Durable Goods). I would not be surprised to see pressure in bonds Monday due to progress in Cyprus this weekend, so be prepared to see movement in rates Monday also. There doesn’t appear to be too much to be concerned with, however, any day could bring something unexpected that leads to a big move in the markets and mortgage pricing. Therefore, it would be wise to keep an eye on the markets if still floating an interest rate and be ready to contact your mortgage professional.