Mortgage Market Update
This week has seven relevant reports for the markets to digest with two being considered highly important. The rest of the reports are moderate to fairly important to the markets, meaning they have the potential to affect mortgage rates but usually don't cause a noticeable change. The most important data comes early and late in the week, but sizable moves in stocks can impact bond trading and mortgage rates any day. January's Personal Income and Outlays data will start the week's activities at 8:30 AM ET tomorrow morning. This data gives us an indication of consumer ability to spend and current spending habits. Current forecasts call for an increase in income of 0.4% while spending is expected to slip 0.1%. Lower levels of income means consumers have less money to spend. And weaker levels of consumer spending helps limit overall economic growth, making long-term securities such as mortgage-related bonds more attractive to investors. Therefore, the weaker the readings, the better the news it would be for mortgage rates. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) will release their manufacturing index for February late tomorrow morning. This index measures manufacturer sentiment and can have a pretty large impact on the financial and mortgage markets if it varies from forecasts. It is expected to show a small decline from January's 53.5 to 53.0 this month. This is important because a reading above 50.0 means more surveyed manufacturers felt business improved during the month than those who felt it had worsened, meaning growth is likely in the manufacturing sector. If we see a weaker than expected reading, the bond market could rally. This is especially true if we see a reading below 50.0 that would point towards manufacturing sector contraction. But, a much higher than forecasted reading could lead to major selling in bonds, causing mortgage rates to rise tomorrow morning. One of the reasons this data is considered so important is the fact that it is usually the first monthly report posted that covers the preceding month. It is traditionally posted the first business day of the month, allowing for a current snapshot of conditions in the manufacturing sector. This week has a couple of private sector employment-related reports due to be posted. The biggest one comes Wednesday morning from payroll processor ADP who will announce their change in private-sector payrolls processed last month. Since it is not a government agency report, it isn't considered to be highly important however, as with any employment-related data it does draw some attention. This is especially true for this report because it is posted just a couple days before monthly employment figures are released by the Labor Department. I personally believe it is given more attention than it really deserves, particularly because many use it to predict the monthly government figures but often fail miserably. Still, if it shows a noticeable variance from expectations, it will likely cause movement in the markets and mortgage rates. The Fed Beige Book is the next report scheduled for release and it will be posted Wednesday afternoon. This report details economic activity throughout the country by Federal Reserve region. The Fed relies heavily on this data during their FOMC meetings, so look for a potential reaction during afternoon trading Wednesday. It probably will not cause a major sell off in the stock or bond markets, but it is still worth watching. Thursday has two reports scheduled for release, but neither is considered to be highly important. The first is the revised Productivity index for the 4th Quarter of last year. The preliminary reading posted last month showed a decline of 1.8% in worker output. Analysts are expecting to see a downward revision of 0.5% to last month's initial reading. Employee productivity is watched fairly closely because a higher level of output per hour is believed to mean that the economy can expand without inflation concerns. However, since this data is quite aged now, it likely will have little impact on Thursday's mortgage rates unless it shows a significant change. The second report of the day is January's Factory Orders at 10:00 AM ET, which will give us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength. This data is similar to last week's Durable Goods, except this report covers orders for both durable and non-durable goods. Current forecasts are calling for an increase in new orders of approximately 0.7%. A smaller than expected increase would be good news for the bond market and could lead to an improvement in mortgage rates since it would point towards economic weakness. The biggest news of the week comes early Friday morning when one of the single most important monthly reports we see will be posted. The Labor Department will release February's Employment report 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 a 0.1% decline in the unemployment rate of 5.7% and approximately 240,000 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 economy's ability to continue to grow that would have an opposite impact on the markets and mortgage pricing. Overall, look for a fairly active week in the markets and mortgage rates, especially the early and latter days. Friday is the most important day of the week due to the significance of that day's data but we could also see a noticeable move in rates tomorrow. The lightest day will probably be Tuesday unless something unexpected happens.