This week brings us the release of only four pieces of monthly economic data with one being considered highly important. In addition to the economic data, the minutes from the last FOMC meeting will also be posted. There is nothing of relevance to mortgage rates scheduled for release Monday, so look for the stock markets to drive bond trading and mortgage rates until we get to the start of this week’s activities.
The first piece of data will be July’s Housing Starts is the first at 8:30 AM ET Tuesday, which will give us an indication of housing sector strength and future mortgage credit demand. It usually doesn’t cause much movement in mortgage rates unless it varies greatly from forecasts. Tuesday’s release is expected to show an increase in construction starts of new homes. The lower the number of starts, the better the news for the bond market, as it would indicate a weaker than expected housing sector.
July’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) will be posted early Wednesday morning. The Consumer Price Index is one of the most important reports we see each month as it measures inflation at the consumer level of the economy. As with last week’s Producer Price Index, there are also two readings in the report. Analysts were expecting to see a 0.2% increase in the overall index and a 0.2% rise in the core data reading. Declines in the readings, especially in the core data, should lead to lower mortgage rates since it would mean inflation is still not a threat to the economy and a Fed rate hike may come later than sooner. On the other hand, stronger than expected readings will likely lead to an increase in mortgage pricing Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, we will get the minutes from the last FOMC meeting. There is a pretty good possibility of the markets reacting to them following their release. Market participants will be looking for how Fed members voted during the last meeting and any comments about inflation concerns in the economy, economic growth and the Fed’s plans for raising short-term interest rates. Since the minutes will be released at 2:00 PM ET, if there is a market reaction to them it will be evident during afternoon trading. This is one of those events that can cause significant movement in rates after its release or be a non-factor, so be prepared for a move, but not surprised if the impact on rates is minimal.
July’s Existing Home Sales report will be posted late Thursday morning. The National Association of Realtors will release this report, giving us a measurement of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand. It covers a very high percentage of all home sales in the U.S., but usually does not have a major influence on bond trading and mortgage rates unless it varies greatly from analysts’ forecasts. It is expected to show a decline from June’s sales, meaning the housing sector softened last month. This would generally be good news for the bond market and mortgage rates because a strengthening housing sector makes broader economic growth more likely. But unless the decline is much larger than current forecasts, the report will likely have a minimal impact on Thursday’s mortgage pricing.
The Conference Board is a New York-based business research group that will post its Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for July late Thursday morning. This index attempts to measure economic activity over the next three to six months and is considered to be moderately important. A higher than expected reading is bad news for the bond market because it indicates that the economy may be strengthening more than thought. However, a weaker reading means that the economy may not grow as much as predicted, making stocks less appealing to investors. This also eases inflation concerns in the bond market and could lead to slightly lower mortgage rates Thursday. It is expected to show an increase of 0.2% in the index, indicating modest economic growth over the next couple of months. It will take a sizable difference between forecasts and its actual reading for this report to noticeably influence mortgage rates.
Overall, Wednesday is likely to be the most active day for mortgage rates and Friday appears to be the best candidate for least important. Stocks will probably be a contributing factor to bond movement several days with little key economic data scheduled this week. I believe bond yields are going to be making a move one direction or another very soon. Unfortunately, it is my opinion that the risk of moving higher outweighs the potential gains of floating for a lower rate. Therefore, I would still proceed cautiously if floating an interest rate and closing in the near future.