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Our Weekly Mortgage Market Commentary

August 21st, 2017

This week brings us the release of only three pieces of economic data that may influence mortgage rates in addition to the annual Jackson Hole Fed conference. There is nothing of importance set for Monday or Tuesday, but there is at least one event or report scheduled every other day of the week. Only one of the reports can be considered very important. As a result, it is likely that we will see the most movement in rates later in the week.

July’s New Home Sales data is the first report of the week, coming Wednesday morning at 10:00 AM ET. This report will give us an indication of housing sector strength and mortgage credit demand, but tracks only a small portion of all home sales. The majority of U.S. home sales are covered in the upcoming Existing Home Sales report. This data usually doesn’t have much of an impact on bond prices or mortgage rates. Current forecasts are calling for a small increase in sales of newly constructed homes from June to July. A large increase in sales would indicate housing sector strength, making the data negative for mortgage rates.

Next up is that July’s Existing Home Sales report late Thursday morning. The National Association of Realtors will release this report, giving us another measurement of housing sector strength. It covers a high percentage of all home sales in the U.S., but usually does not have a major influence on bond trading and mortgage rates unless it varies greatly from analysts’ forecasts. It is expected to show a rise from June’s sales, meaning the housing sector strengthened last month. This would generally be bad news for the bond market and mortgage rates because a strengthening housing sector makes broader economic growth more likely. But unless the increase is much larger than current forecasts, the report will likely have a minimal impact on Thursday’s mortgage pricing.

July’s Durable Goods Orders will be released by the Commerce Department early Friday morning, giving us an important indication of manufacturing sector strength. This report tracks orders at U.S. factories for big-ticket items, or products that are expected to last three or more years such as appliances, electronics and airplanes. Analysts are expecting to see a drop of 6.0% in new orders, pointing towards manufacturing sector weakness. This data is known to be quite volatile from month to month, so a decline of this size doesn’t raise too much concern about the economy. However, a much larger decline is good news for the bond market and mortgage rates as it means manufacturing activity is softer than many had thought. A secondary reading the excludes more volatile transportation-related orders is expected to rise 0.5%. The softer the reading, the better the news it is for the bond and mortgage markets.

Also worth noting is the annual central banker conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There have been major events to come out of this event in the past while others have been non-factors. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to speak this year, so all eyes will be on her speech at 10:00 AM Friday. The conference runs Thursday through Saturday, so we could still see the markets react to something from this event. Any impact on trading or mortgage rates will happen Thursday or Friday.

Overall, I am expecting to see the most movement in rates Friday with the week's most important release and a speaking engagement from Fed Chair Janet Yellen both scheduled. We need to watch the stock markets for rate direction also as significant selling in them could help bring funds into bonds. Generally speaking, stock strength often hurts the bond market while stock losses make bonds more appealing to investors. Therefore, please proceed cautiously and keep an eye on the markets if still floating an interest rate.

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