Market Commentary

 

For the week of February 20, 2017

Last Week in Review

"What are words for when no one listens anymore?" Missing Persons. Housing numbers, Retail Sales and inflation data told quite the tale, while words from the Fed chair also caught people's attention.

In housing news, Housing Starts slipped in January but still beat expectations. The Commerce Department reported Housing Starts declined 2.6 percent in January from December to an annual rate of 1.246 million. However, Housing Starts were up 10.5 percent from January 2016. In addition, Building Permits were 4.5 percent above December's figures. New housing inventory that is in the works or being planned will be a welcome sign to homebuyers.

Retailers enjoyed a solid January as consumers seemed more upbeat about the economy. Retail Sales rose 0.4 percent, above the 0.2 percent expected, while the December reading was revised higher, per the Commerce Department. From January 2016 to January 2017, Retail Sales were up 5.6 percent.

Inflation on both the consumer and wholesale sides was also hotter than expected in January, with the wholesale-measuring Producer Price Index (PPI) reaching its highest reading since the fall of 2012. Of note on the consumer side, year-over-year Consumer Price Index rose to 2.5 percent. Year-over-year PPI remained unchanged at 1.6 percent.

Rising inflation decreases the value of Bonds, like Mortgage Backed Securities. This, in turn, can have a negative impact on home loan rates, which are tied to Mortgage Bonds. While Mortgage Bonds reacted negatively to the hot inflation and robust economic data, it was the words of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that really set markets in motion. Yellen caused a stir early in the week when she said it would be "unwise to wait too long to hike interest rates," referring to the Fed Funds Rate. This is the rate at which banks lend money to each other overnight. Her remarks revved a record-setting Stock rally at the expense of Bonds, though Mortgage Bonds rebounded later in the week. 

Despite the volatility, home loan rates remain in historically low territory.

Forecast for the Week

Housing news will be the bookends of a short week. Markets are closed Monday in observance of Presidents Day.

  • In housing news, Existing Home Sales will be released on Wednesday followed by New Home Sales on Friday.
  • Thursday brings the usual weekly Initial Jobless Claims.
  • The Consumer Sentiment Index will be shared on Friday.

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 Bonds have rebounded in recent days. Despite recent volatility, home loan rates are still in attractive territory.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.0% Mortgage Bond (Friday Feb 17, 2017)


 

For the week of February 13, 2017

Last Week in Review

"I get knocked down, but I get up again." Chumbawumba. Mortgage Bonds were knocked down in the latter part of January, rallied as February picked up steam, and then dropped again.

Mortgage Backed Securities, the type of Bond to which home loan rates are tied, worsened after a five-day rally. These Bonds have not been able to break above the resistance level set in November 2016.

Mixed earnings reports in the U.S. coupled with a floundering Greek economy that grabbed headlines again both contributed to the recent rally in Mortgage Bonds. Close to a decade since its first bailout, Greece is in worse shape than it was in the financial crisis. Other countries like Italy, Portugal and Spain are also struggling with debt and tepid economic growth.

As global economic uncertainty continues, we may see the return of investment dollars to the safer haven of the Bond market. Home loan rates, in turn, may benefit as home loan rates are tied to Mortgage Bonds.

Improved Bond prices and home loan rates would be a welcome sign as housing prices continue to rise. Home price gains continued through the end of 2016, surging in December. CoreLogic, a leading provider of consumer, financial and property information, reported that home prices, including distressed sales, rose 7.2 percent from December 2015 to December 2016. From November to December, prices rose 0.8 percent. The U.S. has experienced 59 consecutive months of year-over-year increases. CoreLogic forecasts a 4.7 percent increase in prices from December 2016 to December 2017.

Despite the market volatility, home loan rates remain in attractive territory.

Forecast for the Week

Inflation and housing news will stand out in a packed economic calendar.

  • Look for wholesale inflation data via the Producer Price Index on Tuesday. The Consumer Price Index follows on Wednesday.
  • Manufacturing data from the Empire State Index will be delivered on Wednesday, with the Philadelphia Fed Index on Thursday.
  • Retail Sales will be released Wednesday​.
  • Housing news is abundant with the NAHB Housing Market Index on Wednesday, and Housing Starts and Building Permits on Thursday.
  • As usual, weekly Initial Jobless Claims will be reported on Thursday.

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 Bonds rallied for several days before getting knocked down again. Home loan rates are still in attractive territory.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Feb 10, 2017)