Mortgage rates fell last week, marking just the second time since September that rates improved on a weekly basis.
The biggest news of the week was the U.S. Presidential Election. Markets appeared to cheer the Republican-to-Democrat transfer of power, posting large gains Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
This in spite of a spate of negative economic news:
- Auto makers are bleeding cash
- Jobless claims at a 25-year high
- Retail sales appear to be stalling
Instead, mortgage markets shrugged it off.
The general consensus among traders last week was that the Democratic White House will make every effort to ignite the economy and, if those efforts fail, it will try again. This bodes well for businesses and for the banking system and is one reason why mortgage rates dropped post-election.
This week, without much new data, markets should move on corporate earnings and momentum. It’s been a while since corporate earnings meant so much to mortgage rates.
U.S. businesses are the backbone of the economy, spending money on goods and services and employing 144 million Americans. When business is strong, more workers get hired who then, in turn, spend their money and force the hiring of even more workers.
It’s a self-reinforcing cycle so if retailers post better-than-expected numbers this week, expect stock markets to gain favor worldwide as investors chase returns. This will money to pull out from bond markets of all kinds — including mortgage-backed bonds.
Less demand for bonds causes mortgage rates to rise.
Also, look at Friday as a volatile trading day. Not only will October’s Retail Sales figures be announced, but Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is sharing the stage with his European Central Bank counterpart, talking about monetary policy.
Word choice is a delicate matter on Wall Street so if Bernanke’s comments are viewed as too anti-inflation, or too pro-inflation, expect for mortgage rates to move by a lot. If you’re shopping for a mortgage right now, consider locking before Bernanke’s 9:00 AM speech.