This week brings us the release of only four pieces of economic data that are relevant to mortgage rates, but one of them is a key inflation reading that is very important to the bond market. However, the theme of the week will be Fed-related with an FOMC meeting, economic forecasts and a press conference with Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
Unlike many Mondays, tomorrow does have a piece data set for release. May's Industrial Production data will be released at 9:15 AM ET tomorrow, giving us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength. It tracks output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities, but is considered to be only moderately important to mortgage rates. If it reveals that production is rapidly rising, concerns of manufacturing strength may come into play in the bond market and cause selling in bonds. A larger increase than the 0.3% that is expected would indicate the manufacturing sector is stronger than many had thought and would likely push mortgage rates slightly higher. A smaller than forecasted increase or decline would be favorable news for the bond market and mortgage pricing.
May's Housing Starts will be posted at 8:30 AM ET Tuesday. This data tracks construction starts of new home projects. It is one of the month's least important reports and likely will not affect mortgage rates unless its results vary greatly from forecasts. It is expected to show that starts of new homes fell last month, indicating softness in the housing sector. That is good news for the bond market and mortgage rates because a weakening housing sector makes broader economic growth less likely. However, this data is not important enough to cause a noticeable change in mortgage rates unless there is a wide variance between forecasts and the actual results.
Wednesday's only events are Fed related, but there are three of them. The first is the 2:00 PM adjournment of the FOMC meeting that began Tuesday. It is widely expected that Chairman Yellen and company will not change key short-term interest rates at this meeting, but market participants will be watching the post-meeting statement for any hints at when they will make their increase to key short-term interest rates. If there are any surprises, look for an immediate reaction in the financial and mortgage markets.
Also at 2:00 PM ET Wednesday, the Fed will release their updated estimates for future economic growth. They will likely post their predictions on GDP growth, unemployment and inflation. These could be a market mover if they show even minor revisions to any of the key headline economic numbers. The larger the change, the more likely the markets will react. Revisions that point toward slower economic growth would be good news for the bond market and mortgage rates as it would mean the Fed will probably make that rate increase later than sooner.
They will be followed by a press conference hosted by Fed Chairman Yellen at 2:30 PM ET. These press conferences with the media often lead to significant afternoon volatility in the markets and mortgage rates. Any surprises will probably cause a noticeable reaction in the markets. That means there is a high probability of seeing afternoon changes to mortgage rates Wednesday.
May's Consumer Price Index (CPI) will be posted early Thursday morning. This index gives us a very important measurement of inflationary pressures at the consumer level of the economy. As with last week's Producer Price Index (PPI), there are two readings that analysts watch. Forecasts are calling for a 0.5% rise in the overall reading and a 0.2% increase in the core data. The core reading is the more important of the two because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices, leaving a more stable measure of inflation. Indexes like this are important to the bond market and mortgage rates because rising inflation makes long-term securities' future interest payments less valuable to investors. That leads them to be sold at a discount, causing yields and mortgage rates to move higher. Therefore, we would like to see weaker than expected readings, indicating inflationary pressures are softer than analysts are thinking. The weaker the readings, the better the news it is for mortgage rates.
Also Thursday morning will be the release of May's Leading Economic Indicators (LEI). The Conference Board, who is a New York-based business research group, will post this data at 10:00 AM ET. It attempts to predict economic activity over the next three to six months. Good news for mortgage rates would be a decline in this index, but it is expected to show a 0.4% increase from April's reading. This means it is predicting an increase in economic growth over the next several months. Since this report is not considered to be of high importance, I don't see it causing too much movement in rates regardless if it shows a strong or weak reading.
Overall, Wednesday is easily the best candidate as most active day for mortgage rates, but we will likely also see a fair amount of movement Thursday. We also need to keep an eye on financial events overseas, particularly out of Greece, as they can heavily influence the global markets. Friday looks to be the least important day unless something unexpected happens. For the week, I would be surprised if we did not see plenty of movement in rates, although the biggest moves will probably take place the middle part.