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Mortgage Market Update

This week brings us the release of only three pieces of monthly economic data for the markets to digest, but none of them are considered to be highly important for mortgage rates. It is a shortened trading week with the stock and bond markets closed tomorrow in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The financial and mortgage markets will reopen Tuesday morning for regular trading hours. Accordingly, there will be no update to this report tomorrow morning. The first data of the week is December's Housing Starts at 8:30 AM Wednesday. It helps us measure housing sector strength and future mortgage credit demand by tracking construction starts of new homes. It is not considered to be one of the more important releases each month, so I don't see it causing much movement in mortgage rates Wednesday but does carry the potential to affect trading and rates if it shows a significant surprise. Analysts are expecting to see an increase in new home starts between November and December. The remaining two monthly reports are scheduled for release at 10:00 AM ET Friday. The first is December's Existing Home Sales from the National Association of Realtors. This data will give us a measurement of housing sector strength and mortgage demand by tracking home resales in the U.S. It is expected to show a rise in sales from November's level, meaning the housing sector strengthened last month. Ideally, bond traders would like to see a decline in sales that would point toward housing sector weakness because a weakening housing sector makes broader economic growth more difficult. However, as long we don't see a significant surprise in its results, it shouldn't have a noticeable impact on Friday's mortgage rates. December's Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) is the final report of the week. It will be posted at 10:00 AM ET Friday also. The Conference Board, who is a New York-based business research group compiles the data and releases this report. It attempts to predict economic activity over the next several months, but since it is posted by a non-governmental agency, it is not considered to be of high importance to the financial and mortgage markets. Friday's release is expected to show a 0.4% increase, meaning the indicators are predicting an increase in economic activity this spring. As long as we don't see a much stronger than predicted increase, I don't think this data will have much of an influence on mortgage pricing either. Overall, despite a light week in terms of the number of economic reports scheduled, we still may see a very active week in the markets and mortgage pricing. In addition to our data there are also some key pieces of foreign economic data being released that can be highly influential. There is also a European Central Bank event Thursday that is equivalent to our FOMC meetings that is expected to bring an announcement the ECB will kick off a bond buying program to help stimulate economic growth in the Euro region. In other words, we will be focusing on items overseas this week just as much as our economic reports. I suspect we will have more than one day of volatility and intraday revisions to mortgage rates.

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