Mortgage Market Update
This week brings us the release of six monthly or quarterly economic reports that are likely to influence mortgage rates. The week opens and closes with key reports for the markets to digest and in between is some moderately important data. With relevant data scheduled for release all five days though, we should see another active week for mortgage rates. The first report comes early tomorrow morning when December's Personal Income and Outlays data is posted at 8:30 AM ET. It gives us an indication of consumer ability to spend and current spending habits, making it relevant to the bond market and mortgage rates. Current forecasts call for an increase in income of 0.3% meaning consumers had a little more money to spend in December than they did in November. The spending reading is expected to fall 0.2%, indicating consumers spent less last month than the previous month. Stronger readings would be good news for the stock markets and could hurt bond prices, driving mortgage rates higher. Weaker than expected increases or declines would be considered good news for the bond market and mortgage rates as it would hint that consumer spending is weaker than thought, limiting economic growth. Also set for release tomorrow is the Institute of Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index for January. This index tracks manufacturer sentiment by rating surveyed trade executives' opinions of business conditions. It is usually the first economic data released each month and is one of the very important reports we get monthly. Current forecasts are calling for a reading in the neighborhood of 54.7, which would be a decline from December's reading of 55.5. The lower the reading, the better the news for the bond market and mortgage rates because weaker sentiment indicates a slowing manufacturing sector. December's Factory Orders data is scheduled to be posted at 10:00 AM ET Tuesday. It is similar to last week's Durable Goods Orders release in giving us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength, but this data includes new orders for both durable and non-durable goods. It is not one of the more important reports we get each month, however, it can influence mortgage pricing if it varies greatly from forecasts. Analysts are expecting a 2.0% decline in new orders, indicating a softening manufacturing sector. The bond market would like to see a larger decline, meaning that manufacturing activity was weaker than many had thought. Wednesday’s only report worth watching is the ADP Employment report at is set for release at 8:15 AM ET. This release has the potential to cause some movement in the markets if it shows much stronger or weaker numbers. It tracks changes in private-sector jobs of the company's clients that use them for payroll processing. While it does draw attention, it is my opinion that it is overrated and also is not a true reflection of the broader employment picture. It also is not accurate in predicting results of the monthly government report that usually follows a couple days later. Still, because we see a reaction to its results, it is included in this week's calendar. Employee Productivity and Costs data for the 4th quarter will be released early Thursday morning. It can cause some movement in the bond market, but should have a minimal impact on mortgage pricing. If the productivity reading varies greatly from analysts' forecasts of a 0.2% increase, we may see some movement in mortgage rates. Higher levels of worker productivity is good news for the bond market because it allows the economy to expand while keeping inflation subdued. Also worth noting is the labor cost reading that bond traders would prefer to see decline in to limit wage inflation concerns. Friday has the big news of the week. The Labor Department will release the almighty Employment report for January at 8:30 AM ET Friday. Some of the important portions of the report will give us the unemployment rate, number of new jobs added or lost and the average hourly earnings reading. The best combination for the bond market and mortgage rates would be an increase in the unemployment rate, a much smaller increase in payrolls than expected and little or no increase in earnings. Current forecasts are calling for no change in the unemployment rate of 5.6% and approximately 235,000 new jobs added to the economy. Stronger than expected readings will likely fuel a stock market rally and selling in bonds that would cause a sizable upward revision to mortgage rates. On the other hand, disappointing numbers would raise concerns about the strength of economy and would likely lead to a sizable improvement in mortgage pricing. Overall, Friday is easily the best candidate for most important day of the week although we could see plenty of movement in the markets and mortgage rates tomorrow also. The calmest day will probably be Thursday.