This week brings us the release of five economic reports that have the potential to affect mortgage rates. There is nothing of importance on the economic front scheduled for Monday, so look for stock trading to have the biggest influence on bond trading and mortgage pricing. We do have round two of earnings releases that can significantly impact the stock markets and help direct funds into or away from mortgage-related bonds. Strong earnings reports should fuel a stock rally that pressures bonds and leads to higher mortgage rates. On the other hand, disappointing earnings news should make bonds more attractive and lead to rate improvements, particularly on days that we don’t get any economic data.
March’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is the first report of the week at 8:30 AM ET Tuesday. This index is one of the most important pieces of data we see each month. It is similar to last week’s PPI but measures inflationary pressures at the consumer level of the economy. If inflation is rapidly rising, bonds become less appealing to investors, leading to bond selling and higher mortgage rates. There are two readings in the index that traders watch- the overall and the core data that excludes more volatile food and energy prices. Analysts are expecting to see a 0.1%decline in the overall readings and a 0.2% rise in the core reading. The core data is the more important reading, which ideally will show a decline in prices at the consumer level.
March’s Housing Starts is the next report, also coming early Tuesday morning. It gives us a measurement of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand by tracking starts of new home construction and the number of permits issued for future starts. This data usually doesn’t cause much movement in mortgage pricing unless it varies greatly from forecasts. It is expected to show a small increase in construction starts of new homes. Good news for the bond market and mortgage rates would be a decline in home starts, indicating housing sector weakness.
The third report of the day is March’s Industrial Production data that will be posted at 9:15 AM ET. It tracks output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities, translating into an indication of manufacturing sector strength. Current forecasts are calling for an increase in production of 0.3%. This data is considered to be only moderately important to rates, so it will take more than just a slight variance to influence bond trading and mortgage pricing. Signs of manufacturing sector strength are considered negative news for mortgage rates, so a decline in output would be good news for the bond market and mortgage shoppers.
Wednesday’s only news is the Federal Reserve’s Fed Beige Book report at 2:00 PM ET. This report is named simply after the color of its cover but details economic conditions throughout the U.S. by Fed region. Since the Fed relies heavily on the contents of this report during their FOMC meetings, its results can have a fairly big impact on the financial markets and mortgage rates if it reveals any significant surprises. Generally speaking, signs of strong economic growth or inflation rising would be considered negative for bonds and mortgage rates. Slowing economic conditions with little sign of inflationary pressures would be considered favorable.
The final report of the week will be posted late Thursday morning when the Conference Board releases their Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for March. This data attempts to measure economic activity over the next three to six months. This is considered to be a moderately important report, so we may see a slight movement in rates as a result of this data. It is expected to show no change from February’s reading, meaning it is predicting little growth in economic activity over the next several months. A decline would be considered good news for the bond market and could lead to slightly lower mortgage rates.
Overall, it will likely be a moderately active week for mortgage rates. However, unlike many weeks, the most important news comes earlier in the week. I am labeling Tuesday the most important data and Friday appears to be the best candidate for the least active day, but Monday may also be fairly quiet. The stock markets could also heavily influence bond trading and mortgage pricing any day this week as we get more corporate earnings releases. I don’t think this will be one of the more active weeks in terms of mortgage rates movement, although we should see minor changes a couple days.