• Jenny Phung

Mortgage Market Update

This week brings us the release of seven monthly and quarterly economic reports that may affect mortgage rates in addition to a couple of Treasury auctions. One of those reports is considered to be extremely important to the financial and mortgage markets and can cause a great deal of volatility. The week’s calendar, along with corporate earnings reports, makes it very likely that this will be an active week for mortgage rates. The first report of the week will be March's Existing Homes Sales numbers from the National Association of Realtors at 10:00 AM ET tomorrow. This report gives us an indication of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand. It can influence mortgage pricing if it shows a sizable variance from forecasts. Ideally, the bond market would like to see a decline in home resales because a soft housing sector makes broader economic growth more difficult. Analysts are expecting to see an increase in sales between February and March. The larger the increase, the worse the news it is for bonds and mortgage rates. That will be followed by March's New Home Sales numbers late Tuesday morning. This Commerce Department report tracks a much smaller portion of all home sales than tomorrow's Existing Home Sales report does. It also gives us an indication of housing sector strength and future mortgage credit demand, however, unless it varies greatly from analysts' forecasts I am not expecting the data to cause much movement in mortgage rates. Analysts are currently forecasting an increase in sales of newly constructed homes. Good news for mortgage rates would be a sizable drop in sales. April's Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) will also be posted at 10:00 AM ET Tuesday. This index is considered to be an indicator of future spending by consumers. The Conference Board surveys 5,000 consumers from across the country about their personal financial situations. If sentiment is strong or rising, it is believed that consumers are more apt to make large purchases in the near future. However, if they are concerned about issues such as job security and savings, they will probably delay making large purchases. The latter is better for the bond market and mortgage rates because the expected slowdown in spending would keep inflation and economic growth to a minimum. On the other hand, a sizable increase could hurt the bond market, pushing mortgage rates higher Tuesday. It is expected to show a reading of 126.1, which would be a decline from March's 127.7 reading. The lower the reading, the better the news it is for mortgage rates. In addition to this week's economic reports, there are two relatively important Treasury auctions that may also influence bond trading enough to affect mortgage rates. There will be an auction of 5-year Treasury Notes Wednesday and 7-year Notes on Thursday. Neither of these sales will directly impact mortgage pricing, but they can influence general bond market sentiment. If the sales go poorly, we could see broader selling in the bond market that leads to upward revisions in mortgage rates. On the other hand, strong sales usually make government securities more attractive to investors and bring more funds into bonds. The buying of bonds that follows often translates into lower mortgage rates. Results of the sales will be posted at 1:00 PM ET each auction day, so look for any reaction to come during afternoon hours. Getting into the more important data of the week, March's Durable Goods Orders will be released early Thursday morning. This report gives us an indication of manufacturing sector strength by tracking orders for big-ticket items at U.S. factories. These are products that are expected to last three or more years, such as appliances, electronics and airplanes. Current forecasts are calling for an increase in new orders of 1.9%. This would be a sign of manufacturing sector strength, but this data can be quite volatile from month-to-month. Therefore, a small variance between forecasts and the actual results will not heavily influence the markets or mortgage rates. A large decline would be considered good news for mortgage pricing, while a large rise would indicate strength in the sector. A sign of solid manufacturing growth could lead to higher mortgage rates Thursday. The big news of the week will come at 8:30 AM ET Friday, when the preliminary version of the 1st Quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be released. There is a strong argument to be made that this is the single most important report that we see on a regular basis. The GDP is the sum of all products and services produced in the U.S. and is considered to be the best measure of economic growth or contraction. I expect this report to cause noticeable movement in the financial markets Friday and therefore the mortgage market also. Analysts are expecting it to show that the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.1% during the first three months of this year. That would be a much slower pace than the 2.9% pace of the final quarter of last year. A weaker rate of growth would be considered good news for mortgage rates. But a stronger than expected reading would almost certainly cause stock prices to rise and bond prices to fall, leading to higher mortgage rates Friday morning. Also early Friday is the 1st Quarter Employment Cost Index (ECI). This index tracks employer costs for wages and benefits, giving us a measurement of wage-inflation. If it shows a large increase, we may see wage inflation concerns rise as employers will need to pass those increases into the pricing of their products and services. That would be bad news for bonds and mortgage rates. A smaller than expected increase would be good news, although I doubt this report will affect mortgage rates because the GDP is a key piece of data and will draw the most attention. Current forecasts are showing a rise of 0.7%. The week closes with the University of Michigan's revised Index of Consumer Sentiment for April just before 10:00 AM ET Friday. This report gives us an indication of consumer sentiment and their willingness to spend. Current forecasts are calling for little change from the preliminary reading of 97.8. This means that surveyed consumers were no more or less optimistic about their own financial situations as they were earlier this month. This data is relevant for the same reason as Tuesday's CCI. I don't expect this report to have a significant impact on bonds and mortgage pricing either unless it shows a noticeable revision. Overall, Friday is the most important day of the week due to the release of three reports being posted, including the highly important GDP reading. Thursday may also be one of the more active days due to the Durable Goods Orders report. Wednesday is the best candidate for least important day. We also need to be attentive to the fact that the benchmark 10-year Treasury Note yield broke above a key level last week that could signal higher yields (and mortgage rates) may be possible. Throw in week two of corporate earnings season and we have plenty to watch this week. Accordingly, it is highly recommended that you maintain contact with your mortgage professional if closing in the near future and still floating an interest rate.

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