Mortgage rates have been highly sensitive to the economic data in recent weeks. Daily volatility has been high even from reports which usually produce a limited reaction. The balance of the data released last week was stronger than expected, which caused mortgage rates to end a little higher.
Following a much improved Employment report on May 3, mortgage rates have been in an upward trend for most of this month. The trend continued to start the week when the April Retail Sales report was stronger than expected. While the consensus was for a small decline, a slight increase was reported. Mortgage rates finally received some relief on Thursday, primarily due to the Jobless Claims report. Weekly Jobless Claims jumped to 360K, far above the consensus of 330K. After three weeks with readings below 350K, investors were disappointed by the results, which called into question the recent strength in the labor market.
The housing market data released last week was mostly positive. While April Housing Starts declined from the multi-year highs seen in March, mostly due to multi-family units, Building Permits jumped to the highest level since June 2008. Building Permits are a leading indicator of future building activity. In another positive sign, the May NAHB Home Builders confidence index increased significantly.
The big story this week will be Wednesday’s release of the FOMC Minutes from the May 1 Fed meeting. These detailed Minutes provide additional insight into the debate between Fed officials. Investors will be looking for hints about when the Fed will begin to scale back its bond buying program. The first economic data this week will be the Existing Home Sales report on Wednesday. New Home Sales will come out on Thursday. Durable Orders, an important indicator of economic growth, will be released on Friday. Mortgage markets will close early on Friday ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.
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