October 15th, 2012
This week brings us the release of six economic reports for the markets to digest. Unlike last week, the most important events are scheduled for the first part of the week while the latter part is much lighter. However, due to stock earnings along with the week’s economic news, we could see mortgage rates move several days with a decent possibility of seeing an intra-day revision or two.
The week kicks off with the release of an extremely important piece of economic data early Monday morning. September’s Retail Sales report that measures consumer spending will be posted at 8:30 AM ET Monday. This data is very important to the markets because consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the U.S. economy. Therefore, any related data is considered to be highly important. If we see weaker than expected readings in this report, the bond market should respond favorably and mortgage rates should drop Monday. However, stronger than expected sales would fuel optimism about the economy and would likely lead to a stock rally that hurts bonds prices and pushes mortgage rates higher. Current forecasts are calling for a 0.7% increase in sales. Good news for the bond market and mortgage pricing would be a much smaller increase.
Tuesday has two reports scheduled that may influence mortgage rates. The first is September’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) at 8:30 AM ET. It measures inflationary pressures at the very important consumer level of the economy and is one of the most important reports that the bond market gets each month. Analysts are expecting to see a rise of 0.5% in the overall index and an increase of 0.2% in the core data reading. A larger than expected increase in the core reading could raise inflation concerns, pushing bond prices lower and mortgage rates higher. Inflation is the number one nemesis of the bond market because it erodes the value of a bond’s future fixed interest payments. When inflation is a threat, even down the road, bonds sell for discounted prices that push their yields higher. And since mortgage rates tend to follow bond yields, this leads to higher rates for mortgage borrowers.
The second report of the day will be September’s Industrial Production data at 9:15 AM ET, giving us an indication of manufacturing strength by tracking output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities. It is expected to show a 0.2% increase in output from August’s level, meaning that manufacturing activity rose slightly. A larger than expected increase in production would be negative for bonds and mortgage rates as it would indicate economic strength. A decline in output would be favorable for the bond market and mortgage rates, but the CPI is much more influential to the markets than this report is and will be the focus of trading Tuesday morning.
September’s Housing Starts is Wednesday’s only release, coming at 8:30 AM ET. This report will probably not have much of an impact on the bond market or mortgage rates. It gives us a measurement of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand by tracking construction starts of new homes, but is usually considered to be of low importance to the financial and mortgage markets. It is expected to show an increase in new home starts between August and September. I believe we need to see a significant surprise in this data for it to have an impact on mortgage rates Wednesday.
Thursday also has only a single monthly report scheduled for release with September’s Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) at 10:00 AM ET. This index attempts to measure future economic activity, particularly during the next three to six months. Current forecasts are calling for an increase of 0.2% from August’s reading. This would indicate that economic activity is likely to increase slightly over the next couple of months. That would be relatively bad news for the bond market and mortgage rates, but this report is considered to be only moderately important. Therefore, a small increase would not be of much concern to the bond and mortgage markets. Ideally, we would like to see a decline in the index.
The National Association of Realtors will release September’s Existing Home Sales data late Friday morning. This report gives us an indication of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand by tracking home resales. I don’t see it having much of an influence on the bond market or mortgage rates, but a reading that varies greatly from analysts’ forecasts could lead to a slight change in mortgage pricing. It is expected to show a decline in sales from August to September, meaning the housing sector remained soft. That would be favorable news for the bond market since a weak housing sector makes a broader economic recovery less likely.
Overall, it appears that Monday or Tuesday are the likely candidates for the most important day of the week. In addition to the economic data, there are many companies posting earning reports during the week, including some big names such as Citigroup, IBM and Intel. If the corporate earnings releases are generally weaker than forecasts, stocks may suffer, making bonds more appealing to investors. The end result would likely be an improvement in rates. The flip side though is stronger than expected earnings that drive stocks higher, pushing bond prices lower and mortgage rates upward. Accordingly, please maintain contact with your mortgage professional if still floating an interest rate.