Market Commentary

 

For the week of September 18, 2017

Last Week in Review

"Never worry about the price of gas." Luke Bryan. Retail Sales dropped in August while higher fuel prices revved up consumer inflation.

Families may have pulled back on back-to-school shopping, but Hurricane Harvey played a role too. The Commerce Department reported that consumers pulled back on spending in August due in part to a drop in car sales attributed to Hurricane Harvey in southern Texas. Retail Sales fell 0.2 percent versus the 0.1 percent increase expected, while July's sales figures were revised lower to 0.3 percent from 0.6 percent. Retailers have been suffering a bit with in-store traffic, but sales at online retailers declined 1.1 percent in August too, the biggest drop since April 2014.

On the inflation front, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) had its largest month-over-month increase in seven months, rising 0.4 percent from July to August. But one month does not make a trend; the increase was due in part to a spike in gasoline prices that posted the biggest jump since January. Core CPI, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, was in line with expectations at 0.2 percent. The Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures wholesale inflation, came in just below expectations in August. But on an annual basis, PPI rose 2.4 percent after increasing 1.9 percent in July.

Any signs of ongoing inflationary pressure are bad for fixed investments, like Mortgage Bonds, so inflation is an important metric to watch. When Mortgage Bond prices worsen, the home loan rates tied to them can worsen as well. 

At this time, home loan rates remain near historic lows.

Forecast for the Week

Fed Chair Janet Yellen and the Fed's monetary policy statement will capture attention midweek.

  • Housing Starts and Building Permits will be released on Tuesday, followed by Existing Home Sales on Wednesday.
  • The Fed's monetary policy statement also will be released Wednesday, and it could be a market mover.
  • Thursday brings weekly Initial Jobless Claims and regional manufacturing data in the Philadelphia Fed Index.

Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve. In contrast, strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart below shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond on which home loan rates are based. 

When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving. When Bond prices are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.    

To go one step further, a red "candle" means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green "candle" means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes are on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning. 

As you can see in the chart below, Bonds have been trading in a sideways pattern after recent declines. Home loan rates are still near historic lows.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Sep 15, 2017)


 

For the week of September 11, 2017

Last Week in Review

"I read the news today, oh boy." The Beatles. While home prices continued to rise, it was headline news that boiled Bond prices.  

Home prices continued to heat up in July, and the heat wave is expected to last. CoreLogic, a leading provider of data and analytics, reported that home prices, including distressed sales, rose 6.7 percent from July 2016 to July 2017. From June to July, home prices increased 0.9 percent. CoreLogic says the "combination of steadily rising prices along with very tight inventory of unsold homes should keep upward pressure on home prices for the remainder of the year."

Also of note, the second read on second quarter Productivity rose to 1.5 percent from the first read of 0.9 percent. However, within the report it showed that the inflation reading unit labor costs declined to 0.2 percent from 0.6 percent, further signs of lower inflation. Low inflation is typically good news for fixed assets like Mortgage Bonds and the home loan rates tied to them.

The week's other economic reports had little impact on markets, but the news headlines about Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the debt ceiling and North Korea had people on edge, including investors.

The uncertainty surrounding these events pushed Bond prices up, keeping home loan rates near historic lows.

Forecast for the Week

Fed members will keep a watchful eye on inflation.
  • Economic data releases begin on Wednesday with wholesale inflation numbers from the Producer Price Index, followed by the Consumer Price Index on Thursday.
  • Weekly Initial Jobless Claims also will be released on Thursday.
  • On Friday, Retail Sales will be delivered along with the Consumer Sentiment Index and the Empire State Index, which provides a look at regional manufacturing.

Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve. In contrast, strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart below shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond on which home loan rates are based. 

When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving. When Bond prices are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse. 

To go one step further, a red "candle" means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green "candle" means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes are on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning. 

As you can see in the chart below, Mortgage Bond prices have hovered near 2017 highs, leaving home loan rates near historic lows.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.0% Mortgage Bond (Friday Sep 08, 2017)