Wednesday’s bond market has opened down slightly even though this morning’s important economic data was favorable to bonds. The stock markets are causing a problem for bonds with gains of 129 in the Dow and 55 points in the Nasdaq. The bond market is currently down 2/32 (1.78%), which with weakness late yesterday should push this morning’s mortgage rates slightly higher than Tuesday’s morning pricing.
March’s Retail Sales data was the first of this morning’s two pieces of economic data, both of which came at 8:30 AM ET. It showed a 0.3% decline in retail-level sales, falling well short of the 0.1% increase that was expected. Even a secondary reading that excludes costly and volatile auto sales came in below expectations (+0.2% vs +0.4%). These readings show that consumers spent less last month than many had thought Because consumer spending makes up such a huge part of the U.S. economy and bonds tend to thrive in weaker economic conditions, this is clearly good news for the bond and mortgage markets. Unfortunately, attention appears to be turned towards stocks and other things than this morning’s data.
The Labor Department posted March’s Producer Price Index (PPI) early this morning also. It showed a decline of 0.1% in both the overall and core readings when moderate increases were forecasted. Analysts were expecting to see a 0.3% rise in the overall reading and a 0.2% increase in the more important core data. This means that inflationary pressures at the producer level of the economy were much softer than analysts had predicted. Since inflation devalues a bond’s future fixed interest payments, this was also supposed to be good news for bonds and mortgage rates.
We have two afternoon events that may influence bond trading and possibly mortgage rates. The first is the 10-year Treasury Note auction. It is common to see some weakness in bonds ahead of the sales as participating firms sell current holdings to prepare for them. That may be contributing to this morning’s flat open in bonds despite favorable economic news. However, this weakness is usually only temporary if the sales are met with a decent demand. The results of the auction will be posted at 1:00 PM ET. If the demand from investors was strong, the bond market could rally during afternoon trading, leading to lower mortgage rates. If the sales were met with a poor demand, the afternoon weakness may cause upward revisions to mortgage pricing later today.
The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report will also be posted during afternoon trading. 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 from the last update would be considered negative for bonds and mortgage rates. Slowing economic conditions with little sign of inflationary pressures would be ideal for mortgage rates. The report will be released at 2:00 PM ET, so any reaction will come during mid-afternoon hours.
There are two more economic reports scheduled for tomorrow morning, but one is much more important than the other. The key release is March’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) at 8:30 AM ET. This index is one of the more important pieces of data the bond market gets each month. It is similar to Today’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. As with the PPI, there are two readings in the index that traders watch- the overall and the core data. Analysts are expecting to see a 0.3% rise in the overall readings and a 0.1% increase in the core reading. The core data is the more important reading, which ideally would show a decline in prices at the consumer level, keeping inflation concerns subdued.
Last week’s unemployment numbers is the second release, also at 8:30 AM ET. They are expected to show that 268,000 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed last week. This would be a minor increase from the previous week’s 267,000 initial claims, indicating the employment sector softened just a tad last week. Since rising claims hints at a weakening employment sector, the larger the number the better the news it is for mortgage rates. Although, it is worth noting that because this is only a weekly snapshot, it usually takes a surprise increase or decline for the report to noticeably affect rates. Especially when its release accompanies a major inflation reading.