Mortgage markets improved last week as economic reports painted a less-than-stellar portrait of the U.S. economy and concerns of a looming monetary policy change eased. Mortgage pricing improved dramatically, despite a late-Friday retreat.
Mortgage rates are now at their lowest levels since early-February.
Last week was heavy on negative data:
- Consumer Confidence posted 16% short of expectations
- New Home Sales posted 13% short of expectations
- Initial Jobless Claims were higher than expected
In addition, both the Case-Shiller and Home Price Indices showed a slight pullback in the housing sector.
The impact of these statistics was muted, however. This is because Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave his semi-annual outlook to Congress and markets focused more on the chairman verbiage than hard data, looking for clues about the future of Fed policy.
Bernanke stayed on message — the Fed Funds Rate will stay low for an extended period of time.
Mortgage rates were also helped by a strengthening U.S. dollar and demand for U.S.-denominated bonds. When demand for mortgage-backed bonds is strong, mortgage rates fall.
This week, mortgage rates will jockey around Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls report.
Jobs are playing a large role in mortgage bond trading and markets expect that 30,000 jobs were lost in February. If the actual figure is better than 30,000 jobs lost, mortgage rates will rise. If it’s worse, rates will rise.
Other important data this week include Personal Consumption Expenditures — the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge — plus the Fed’s Beige Book release. Mortgage rates remain in flux so float with caution.
Mortgage rates look good today, but by Friday, they could be much, much worse.