This week brings us the release of five pieces of economic data that are likely to influence mortgage rates. While that’s not an overly large number of reports, it is worth noting that two of them are extremely important and they all come over only three days. That leads me to believe it is going to be a very active week for the financial and mortgage markets.
The week's calendar begins Monday with the release of April’s Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index at 10:00 AM ET. This is usually the first important economic report released each month and gives us an indication of manufacturer sentiment. A reading above 50 means that more surveyed trade executives felt business improved during the month than those who felt it had worsened. This points toward more manufacturing activity and could hurt bond prices, pushing mortgage rates higher. Analysts are expecting to see a reading of 51.4, down slightly from March's 51.8. Ideally, bond traders would like to see a reading below 50.0 as it would hint at contraction in the manufacturing sector rather than growth, but a decline from March's level would still be good news for mortgage shoppers.
Tuesday has nothing in terms of economic reports that we need to be concerned with, but Wednesday has three. The ADP Employment report is set for release early Wednesday morning, which has the potential to cause some movement in the markets if it shows much stronger or weaker numbers. This report tracks changes in private-sector jobs of ADP's clients that use them for payroll processing. While it does draw attention, it is my opinion that it is overrated and 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 do often see a reaction to the report, we should be watching it. Analysts are expecting it to show that 196,000 new payrolls were added. The lower the number of jobs, the better the news it is for mortgage rates.
The second report of the day will come from the Labor Department, who will release its 1st Quarter Productivity and Costs data during early morning hours. This information helps us measure employee productivity in the workplace. High levels of productivity help allow low-inflationary economic growth. If employee productivity is rapidly rising, the bond market should react favorably. However, a sizable decline could cause bond prices to drop and mortgage rates to rise slightly Wednesday morning. It is expected to show a 1.4% drop in worker productivity during the first three months of the year.
Wednesday’s final report will be February's Factory Orders at 10:00 AM ET. This data is similar to the Durable Goods Orders report that was posted last week, except it includes orders for both durable and non-durable goods. It will give us another measurement of manufacturing sector strength. It is considered to be only moderately important to the bond and mortgage markets, so unless it varies greatly from forecasts of a 0.5% increase, I suspect that the data will have a minimal impact on Wednesday's mortgage rates.
The biggest news of the week will come early Friday morning when the Labor Department posts March's Employment report, revealing the U.S. unemployment rate and the number of jobs added or lost during the month. This is an extremely important report to the financial and mortgage markets. It is expected to show that the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.0% and that approximately 207,000 payrolls were added to the economy during the month. A higher unemployment rate and a much smaller than expected payroll number would be good news for bonds and would likely push mortgage rates lower Friday morning because it would indicate weaker than thought conditions in the employment sector of the economy. However, stronger than expected results would probably fuel a stock rally and bond selling that leads to a sizable increase in mortgage pricing.
Overall, Friday is the single most important day of the week due to the significance of the monthly Employment report, but Monday’s ISM report is considered highly important also. Tuesday is the best candidate for lightest day because traders will probably be making adjustments Thursday before Friday’s key economic release.