February 11th, 2013
This week brings us the release of only three pieces of monthly economic data that is relevant to mortgage rates in addition to two Treasury auctions. One of the economic reports is considered highly important to the markets, but the others are not likely to be market movers. We still could see a fair amount of movement in mortgage rates though, especially if stocks make a sizable move upward or downward.
Nothing of concern is due Monday or Tuesday morning, leaving bond trading to be driven by the stock markets the first part of the week. If the major stock indexes move higher, we will probably see funds move away from bonds and into stocks. This would lead to higher mortgage rates as bond prices and yields move in opposite directions. Mortgage rates tend to follow bond yields, so we prefer to see bond prices go up, pushing rates lower.
The week’s first release is one of the more important ones we get each month. The Commerce Department will post January’s Retail Sales data early Wednesday morning. This report is very important to the financial markets because it measures consumer spending. Since consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the U.S. economy, any related data is watched quite closely. If Wednesday’s report reveals weaker than expected retail-level sales, the bond market should thrive and mortgage rates will fall since it would be a sign that the economy is not as strong as many had thought. However, a stronger reading than the 0.1% increase that is expected could lead to higher mortgage rates Wednesday.
January’s Industrial Production data will be released mid-morning Friday. It gives us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength by tracking output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities and can have a moderate impact on the financial markets. Analysts are expecting to see a 0.2% increase in production from December to January. A decline in output would be good news and should push bond prices higher, lowering mortgage rates Friday.
February’s preliminary reading to the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment will be released late Friday morning. This index measures consumer willingness to spend and also usually has a moderate impact on the financial markets. If it shows an increase in consumer confidence, the stock markets may move higher and bond prices could fall. It is currently expected to come in at 73.5, down slightly from January’s final reading of 73.8. That would indicate consumers were a little less optimistic about their own financial situations than last month and are less likely to make large a purchase in the near future. Since consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the U.S. economy, this would be considered slightly favorable news for bonds and mortgage pricing.
The two important Treasury auctions come Wednesday and Thursday when 10-year Notes and 30-year Bonds are sold. The 10-year sale is the more important of the two as it will give us an indication for demand of mortgage-related securities. If the sales are met with a strong demand from investors, we should see the bond market move higher during afternoon trading the days of the auctions. But a lackluster interest from buyers, particularly international investors, would indicate a waning appetite for longer-term U.S. securities and lead to broader bond selling. The selling in bonds would likely result in upward afternoon revisions to mortgage rates.
Overall, I believe we will see the most movement in rates the middle part of the week. There is a small improvement waiting for Monday’s open if your lender did not improve pricing Friday afternoon when the bond market strengthened during late trading. The Dow closed just under 14,000 Friday, so we will also be watching it for an indication of bond movement. I believe that failure to break above that level could mean a downward leg in stocks that would boost bond prices and improve mortgage rates. I see Wednesday as the likely candidate for the most important day and Tuesday being the least active, assuming stocks remain calm most of the week. However, despite it being a relatively light week in terms of economic releases, I still recommend maintaining contact with your mortgage professional of still floating an interest rate.