October 29th, 2012
This week has an active agenda with seven economic reports scheduled for release that have the potential to influence mortgage rates. There is at least one relevant report scheduled each day this week, making it likely to be an active one for the financial and mortgage markets.
The first release of the week will come Monday at 8:30 AM ET when September’s Personal Income and Outlays report will be posted. This data gives us an indication of consumer ability to spend and current spending habits. It is important to the markets because consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the U.S. economy. Rising income generally indicates that consumers have more money to spend, making economic growth more of a possibility. This is bad news for the bond market and mortgage rates because it raises inflation concerns, making long-term securities such as mortgage related bonds less attractive to investors. Analysts are expecting to see a 0.6% increase in income and a 0.4% rise in spending. Smaller than expected increases in both readings would be good news for the bond market and mortgage pricing.
October’s Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) is Tuesday’s only news. This Conference Board index will be released at 10:00 AM ET Tuesday. It gives us a measurement of consumer willingness to spend and is expected to show a small increase in confidence from last month’s 70.3 reading. That would mean that consumers felt a little better about their own financial situations than last month, indicating they are more likely to make large purchases in the near future. As long as the reading doesn’t exceed the forecasted 72.5, we will likely see the bond market react favorably to this report. This data is watched closely because it is related to consumer spending.
The 3rd Quarter Employment Cost Index (ECI) will be released at 8:30 AM ET on Wednesday. This data tracks employer costs for salaries and benefits, giving us an indication of wage inflation pressures. Rapidly rising costs raises wage inflation concerns and may hurt bond prices. It is expected to show an increase in costs of 0.5%. A smaller than expected increase would be good news for mortgage rates, but this is not one of the more important reports of the week. Therefore, it will likely take a large variance from forecasts for this report of have a noticeable influence on mortgage pricing.
Thursday has two relevant economic reports scheduled for release. The first is the 3rd Quarter Productivity reading at 8:30 AM ET. It is expected to show a 1.6% increase in worker productivity during the third quarter. A larger increase would be good news for the bond market because higher levels of employee productivity allow the economy to expand without inflationary pressures being a concern.
The key data of the day and one of the two highly important reports of the week will be the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index at 10:00 AM ET Thursday. This index measures manufacturer sentiment, which is important because it gives us an indication of manufacturing sector strength. It is considered to be one of the more important reports we see each month, partly because it is the first report every month that tracks the preceding month’s activity. Thursday’s release is expected to show a reading of 51.0, indicating that manufacturer sentiment slipped from September’s level. This means fewer surveyed business executives felt business improved during the month than in September, hinting at manufacturing sector weakness. A smaller than expected reading would be good news for bonds and mortgage rates, especially if it falls below the benchmark 50.0.
Friday brings us the release of two pieces of economic data, one of which is arguably the single most important monthly report. The Labor Department will post October’s Employment report early Friday morning. This report is comprised of many statistics and readings, but the most important ones are the unemployment rate, the number of new jobs added or lost during the month and average hourly earnings. Current forecasts call for the unemployment rate to move higher by 0.1% to 7.9%, an increase in payrolls of approximately 125,000 and a 0.2% increase in average earnings. Weaker than expected readings should renew concerns about the labor market and rally bonds enough to improve mortgage rates, especially if the stock markets react poorly to the news. On the other hand, if the report indicates employment sector strength, we could see mortgage rates spike higher Friday morning.
The second report of the day will be September’s Factory Orders data. This report is similar to last week’s Durable Goods Orders release except it includes orders for both durable and non-durable goods. It is expected to show a 4.5% increase in new orders from August’s level. A smaller than forecasted increase would be good news for the bond market and mortgage rates while a larger than expected rise is bad news and could contribute to higher mortgage pricing since it would indicate economic strength. It is worth noting though, that the Employment report is much more important to the financial and mortgage markets than this data is.
Overall, the single most important day is likely to be Thursday or Friday. In addition to the economic reports, I believe stocks will experience volatility that will also impact bond trading. The key to the week will be Friday’s employment numbers, but any significant swings in the stock markets may also influence whether mortgage rates close the week higher or lower than Monday morning’s levels.