March 16th, 2009 8:59 AM by Lehel Szucs
This week brings us the release of five relevant economic reports along with an FOMC meeting for the markets to digest. The first piece of data will come mid-morning tomorrow when February's Industrial Production report is posted. This report measures manufacturing sector strength by tracking output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities. It is expected to show a 1.2% drop in output. A larger decline would be considered favorable news for bonds and mortgage rates.
The Labor Department will post February's Producer Price Index (PPI) early Tuesday morning. This index measures inflationary pressures at the producer level of the economy. There are two portions of the index- the overall reading and the core data. The core data is more important and watched more closely because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices. If the index shows a large increase, inflation concerns may rise, making long-term investments such as mortgage-related bonds less attractiv e to investors. This would lead to higher mortgage rates Tuesday morning. Current forecasts are calling for a 0.4% rise in the overall reading and a 0.1% increase in the core data.
Also Tuesday is February's Housing Starts, but it will likely not have much of an impact on mortgage rates. It gives us a measurement of housing sector strength and future mortgage credit demand, but is usually considered to be of low importance to the financial markets. It is expected to show a decline in new starts from January to February.
February's Consumer Price Index (CPI) will be released Wednesday, which measures inflationary pressures at the very important consumer level of the economy. Its results can definitely have a huge impact on the financial markets, especially long-term securities such as mortgage-related bonds. It is expected to show a 0.3% increase in the overall index and a 0.1% rise in the more important core data. If we see weaker t han expected readings, bond prices should rise and mortgage rates would likely fall Wednesday.
The FOMC meeting that begins Tuesday and will adjourn Wednesday at 2:00 PM ET. With key short-term interest rates practically at 0% already, there is not much the Fed can do with monetary policy at this meeting. They have previously stated that they expect rates to remain near zero for some time. Therefore, the anxiety of the post-meeting statement should be minimal and the likelihood of a major market reaction to the statement is reduced significantly. If the statement references a time frame of an economic recovery, we may see the markets react if it reveals any surprises. Other than that, I am not expecting too much movement in mortgage rates Wednesday afternoon.
The Conference Board will post its Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for February late Thursday morning. This index attempts to measure economic activity over the next three to six months. Cur rent forecasts are calling for a 0.6% decline, indicating that economic activity will likely slow in the coming weeks. This would be good news for the bond market and mortgage rates.
Overall, look for Wednesday to be the most important day of the week due to the CPI release. Tuesday may also be an active day for rates with the PPI on tap. But the wildcard is whether stocks continue last week's gains or if they move lower again. Stock strength would likely draw funds from bonds and lead to higher mortgage rates. However, if the major indexes fall again, funds may shift into bonds, leading to lower mortgage rates.
If I were considering financing/refinancing a home, I would.... Lock if my closing was taking place within 7 days... Float if my closing was taking place between 8 and 20 days... Float if my closing was taking place between 21 and 60 days... Float if my closing was taking place over 60 days from now... This is only my opinion of what I would do if I were financing a home. It is only an opinion and cannot be guaranteed to be in the best interest of all/any other borrowers.
©Mortgage Commentary 2009