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The Weekly Mortgage Commentary

May 1st, 2017

This week brings us the release of six pieces of economic data that are likely to influence mortgage rates in addition to an FOMC meeting. While that's a fairly large number of reports, it is the fact that two of them are extremely important and can heavily impact mortgage rates that make the week so interesting. The number of reports and the importance of some of them 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 two important pieces of economic data. The first is March’s Personal Income and Outlays data at 8:30 AM ET. It helps us measure consumers’ ability to spend and current spending habits. This information is important to the mortgage market due to the influence that consumer spending related data has on the financial markets. If a consumer’s income is rising, they have the ability to make additional purchases in the near future, fueling economic growth. This raises inflation concerns and has a negative impact on the bond market and mortgage rates. Current forecasts are calling for a 0.3% increase in the income reading and a 0.1% rise in spending. If we see smaller than expected readings, the bond market should open higher Monday morning.

April’s Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index will be posted at 10:00 AM ET Monday. 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 56.5 down from March’s 57.2. Bond traders would prefer to see a reading below 50.0 as it would hint at contraction in the manufacturing sector rather than growth, but a larger decline from March’s level would still be good news for mortgage shoppers.

Tuesday has nothing in terms of events that we need to be concerned with, but Wednesday has two. 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 170,000 new payrolls were added. The lower the number of jobs, the better the news it is for mortgage rates.

This week’s FOMC meeting will begin Tuesday and adjourn Wednesday afternoon. It will likely adjourn with an announcement of no change to key short-term interest rates, but we may see some volatility in the markets following the post-meeting statement. If the statement gives any hint of change in their current forecasts on the number of rate hikes they expect to make this year, we could see a sizable change to mortgage rates Wednesday afternoon. This meeting will not be followed by a Fed press conference or economic projections so it will be the post-meeting statement that drives trading.

Thursday has two reports set to be posted. First, comes the 1st Quarter Productivity and Costs data at 8:30 AM ET. 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 Thursday morning. It is expected to show a 0.1% rise in worker productivity during the first three months of the year.

Thursday's second 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 0.4% increase, I suspect that the data will have a minimal impact on Thursday’s mortgage rates.

The biggest news of the week will come early Friday morning when the Labor Department posts April’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 inched up to 4.6% from March's 4.5% and that approximately 180,000 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 will probably fuel a stock rally and bond selling that leads to a sizable increase in mortgage pricing.

Overall, the single most important day of the week is Friday or Wednesday, but Monday’s ISM report is considered highly important also. Tuesday is the best candidate for the lightest day, although we could see some pre-FOMC movement. Due to the significance of some of this week’s data, I highly recommend maintaining contact with your mortgage professional this week if still floating an interest rate.

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