April 16th, 2012
This week brings us the release of five economic reports that are relevant to mortgage rates, the first being the most important one. It will be posted early tomorrow morning when the Commerce Department releases March’s Retail Sales data. This piece of data gives us a measurement of consumer spending levels, which is very important because consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
Forecasts are calling for a 0.3% increase in sales last month. If we see a larger increase in spending, the bond market will likely fall and mortgage rates will rise as it would indicate consumers are spending more than thought, fueling economic growth. However, a weaker than expected reading could push bond prices higher and mortgage rates lower tomorrow.
March’s Housing Starts is the next report, coming early Tuesday morning. It gives us a measurement of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand by tracking starts of new home construction and the number of permits issued for future starts. This data usually doesn’t cause much movement in mortgage pricing unless it varies greatly from forecasts. It is expected to show a slight increase in construction starts of new homes. Good news for the bond market and mortgage rates would be a decline in home starts, indicating housing sector weakness.
March’s Industrial Production data will be posted at 9:15 AM ET Tuesday. It gives us a measurement of output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities, translating into an indication of manufacturing sector strength. Current forecasts are calling for an increase in production of 0.2%. This data is considered to be only moderately important to rates, so it will take more than just a slight variance to influence bond trading and mortgage pricing. Signs of manufacturing sector strength are considered negative news for mortgage rates.
Thursday has the remaining two reports scheduled, starting with March’s Existing Homes Sales numbers from the National Association of Realtors at 10:00 AM ET. This report also gives us an indication of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand. It is considered to be moderately important to the markets, but can influence mortgage pricing if it shows a sizable variance from forecasts. Ideally, the bond market would like to see a drop in home resales because a soft housing sector makes a broader economic recovery difficult. Analysts are expecting to see an increase in sales between February and March. The larger the increase, the worse the news for bonds and mortgage rates.
The final report of the week will also be posted late Thursday morning when the Conference Board releases their Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for March. This data attempts to measure economic activity over the next three to six months. This is considered to be a moderately important report, so we may see a slight movement in rates as a result of this data. It is expected to show an increase of 0.2%, meaning it is predicting slight growth in economic activity over the next several months. A decline would be considered good news for the bond market and could lead to slightly lower mortgage rates, assuming the housing report doesn’t show a significant surprise.
Overall, it will likely be a moderately active week for mortgage rates. However, unlike many weeks, the most important news comes during the early part of the week. Friday appears to be the best candidate for least active day, but Wednesday may also be fairly quiet. The stock markets will also influence bond trading and mortgage pricing this week as we get more corporate earnings releases. In other words, I expect to see only small changes to mortgage rates, but see them each day. At least once we get past tomorrow’s data.