Updated on February 21, 2019 11:51:15 AM EST
Yesterday afternoon’s release of the minutes from January’s FOMC meeting gave us some interesting bits of information. First, it appears Fed members are divided on whether more hikes are needed to key short-term interest rates this year. It wasn’t too long ago that the consensus was 3 increases in 2019. They also indicated that their balance sheet reduction plan may be adjusted or even stopped later this year, compared to the original plan of 2023. The current plan allows for up to $50 billion of assets to fall off their balance sheet monthly without reinvesting the proceeds. Just the idea that the Fed may be considering slowing that roll off is good news for bonds and mortgage rates because it signals there is some worry about future economic growth. However, the minor reaction bonds did have to the release late yesterday was negative.
The first of this morning’s economic news was December’s Durable Goods Orders at 8:30 AM ET. It revealed a 1.2% rise in new orders for big-ticket products such as airplanes, appliances and electronics, nearly matching the 1.3% that was forecasted. A secondary reading that excludes more volatile and costly transportation orders (airplanes) showed a 0.1% rise when analysts were expecting a 0.2% increase. Both readings are weaker than expectations, but the minor variance prevents us from calling the report overwhelmingly favorable for mortgage pricing.
Also at 8:30 AM ET was last week’s unemployment update. The figures showed that 216,000 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed last week, down from the previous week’s 239,000 initial filings. Forecasts were calling for 225,000 initial claims. Since falling claims is a sign of employment sector strength, this data is considered bad news for mortgage rates. That said, it is only a weekly snapshot of the sector and has had a minimal impact on today’s rates.
Januarys Existing Home Sales was posted at 10:00 AM ET. The National Association of Realtors announced a 1.2% decline in home resales, indicating softness in the housing sector. Analysts were expecting to see a small increase in sales. Therefore, we should consider the data favorable for mortgage rates as it hints at economic weakness.
The final monthly report of the week was Januarys Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) that came in with a 0.1% decline, falling short of the 0.1% increase that was predicted. This index predicts economic activity over the next three to six months, meaning it is predicting slower growth in the near future. Again, this is favorable news for bonds and the mortgage market. We just haven’t seen the reaction that we would expect.
There is little scheduled tomorrow with exception to a handful of Fed speaking engagements throughout the day. These have the potential to affect the markets and mortgage rates but often go by without much fanfare. Being that there is no relevant economic data scheduled, it is more likely that one of these may become the focus of the day’s trading. It is impossible to predict what each speaker will say, so we wait and see if they give us any surprises. It is worth noting though that there is little chance that their words will cause a significant swing in the markets or large changes to mortgage pricing.
©Mortgage Commentary 2019