June 4th, 2012
This week is relatively light in terms of scheduled economic reports that are relevant to mortgage pricing. None of the factual economic reports are considered to be highly important to the financial markets or mortgage pricing. The data that is on the agenda is considered to be moderately important, but Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning have events scheduled that could be the biggest factor in whether mortgage rates move higher or lower this week.
The first release of the week will come from the Commerce Department, who will post April’s Factory Orders data late tomorrow morning. This manufacturing sector report is similar to last week’s Durable Goods Orders release, but also includes orders for non-durable goods. It can cause some movement in the financial markets if it varies from forecasts by a wide margin, but it isn’t expected to cause much of a change in rates. Current forecasts are calling for an increase in new orders of 0.2%.
There is nothing of relevance scheduled for release Tuesday, but Wednesday has two events that we will watch. The first is the revised 1st Quarter Productivity and Costs data at 8:30 AM ET. This data measures employee output and employer costs for wages and benefits. It is considered to be a measurement of wage inflation. This is relevant because it is believed that the economy can grow with low inflationary pressures when productivity is high. Economic growth isn’t much of a concern to the bond market at the moment, but if productivity is at a high level when the economy does turn the corner, inflation may not be as much of a topic as it would be without strong productivity levels. Last month’s preliminary reading revealed a 0.5% decline and analysts are expecting to see a 0.7% decline, but I don’t think this piece of data will have much of an impact on the bond market or mortgage pricing unless it varies greatly from that reading.
Wednesday afternoon has the Federal Reserve’s release of their Beige Book. This data details economic conditions throughout the U.S. by Federal Reserve region. It is relied upon heavily by the Fed to determine monetary policy during their FOMC meetings. If it shows surprisingly softer economic activity since the last report, the bond market may thrive and mortgage rates could drop shortly after the 2:00 PM ET release. If it reveals signs of inflation growing or rapidly expanding economic activity in many regions, we could see mortgage rates revise higher Wednesday afternoon.
Thursday has no important economic data scheduled, but Fed Chairman Bernanke will speak before a Congressional Joint Economic Committee about his outlook for the economy. His words are always the focus of attention and can be highly influential on the markets and mortgage rates. It will be interesting to see exactly what he says and how much his outlook has changed in the recent weeks, especially after Friday’s disappointing Employment report. He is scheduled to testify at 10:00 AM ET, so we could see many lenders post rates later than usual to allow the markets to react to his prepared speech and the Q&A that follows. I think this event is more likely to benefit mortgage shoppers than lead to a spike in rates, but it is the week’s most important event so I recommend proceeding cautiously into it if still floating an interest rate.
April’s Goods and Services Trade Balance report will close the week’s economic reports early Friday morning. This data gives us the size of the U.S. trade deficit and will be released at 8:30 AM ET. It isn’t likely to cause much movement in the markets or mortgage rates, but nevertheless forecasters are expecting to see a $49.9 billion trade deficit. It will take a wide variance from this projection for the data to influence mortgage rates.
Overall, it likely is going to be a moderately busy week for the mortgage market. The most action will likely come during the middle days, assuming that the stock markets don’t go into heavy selling or rally. Friday’s employment data helped fuel large stock losses and pushed bond yields to new record lows. The loss puts the Dow just a little more than 100 points away from breaking below an extremely important benchmark of 12,000. If stocks recover a good part of last week’s losses, we can expect bond prices to suffer and mortgage rates to rise. On the other hand, further stock weakness could lead to more funds moving into bonds and another round of improvements to mortgage rates.
As referenced Friday, I believe the major indexes still have plenty of room to fall, which traditionally makes bonds more attractive as investors seek a safe-haven to place funds and escape the volatility. However, we should note that the 10-year Treasury is currently at a historic low yield of 1.47%. Even lower than when the financial crisis was at its peak. My concern is that I am not sure just how much lower we can see yields fall before investor appeal wanes, raising concerns about inflationary risks in the future. We are in unchartered waters with mortgage rates so low, stocks still relatively overpriced, overseas concern rising again and bond yields at record lows. It is going to be interesting to see what happens over the summer. At some point in the near future we will need to shift to a conservative approach towards mortgage rates, but for the time being, enjoy the improvements.