Mortgage Rate Market Update

Aug 22, 2016

Bond prices slipped lower during the week and yields increased slightly while the major stock market indexes ended mixed and little changed.


Investors primarily focused their attention on comments made by Federal Reserve officials throughout the week who said they would like to see a rate hike ‘sooner rather than later.”  The potential negative implications a rate hike would have on both stocks and bonds prompted investors to “take some money off of the table” in both stocks and bonds.


After the close of trading on Thursday, San Francisco Fed President John Williams echoed the case made earlier in the week by colleagues William Dudley (New York Fed President) and Dennis Lockhart (Atlanta Fed President) for an interest rate hike presumably sometime during the fourth quarter of this year.


Williams stated in remarks to the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation “In the context of a strong domestic economy with good momentum, it makes sense to get back to a pace of gradual rate increases, preferably sooner rather than later.  If we wait until we see the whites of inflation’s eyes, we don’t just risk having to slam on the monetary policy brakes, we risk having to throw the economy into reverse to undo the damage of overshooting the mark,” he said.  “And that creates its own risks of a hard landing or even a recession.”


Although Williams is not an FOMC voter this year, his opinions are highly respected by voting FOMC members due to his longstanding and close relationship with Fed Chair Janet Yellen, his former boss at the San Francisco Fed.  Investors were also cautious ahead of next week’s annual Jackson Hole Symposium hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City where it is anticipated Fed Chair Janet Yellen will present a rationale for gradually increasing interest rates.


The week’s economic news continued to provide a mixed view of the economy.  Housing Starts and Industrial Production were reported higher than forecast in July while the New York Empire State Manufacturing Index and the Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Survey for August disappointed investors.  Inflation measures were benign with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for July showing inflation growth of 0.0% while the Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, grew at a 0.1% pace to come in below the consensus forecast of 0.2%.  However, the shelter sub-index increased 0.2% in July following a 0.4% rise in May and a 0.3% increase in June.  The sub-indexes for rent and owners’ equivalent rent both increased 0.3% in July, while the index for lodging away from home turned lower, falling 2.4% after increasing in May and June.


In housing, the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) reported homebuilder sentiment improved in August with a reading of 60.0 in their monthly housing market index.  The reading topped the consensus forecast of 59.0 and was above a downwardly revised reading of 58.0 for July.  There were improvements in two of the three index components.  The Current Sales Index climbed two points to 65 and the Future Sales Index, a measure of six-month sales outlook rose to 67 from 66.  The measure of prospective buyer traffic slipped one point to 44 from 45.


Elsewhere, the Census Bureau reported Housing Starts reached an annual rate of 1,211,000 homes in July, a 2.1% increase from June’s 1,186 million homes under construction and the highest level since February.  Housing Starts have been above the one million annualized pace for more than a year. The Northeast region led the way with a 15.5% surge in Starts while smaller gains were recorded in the Midwest and Southern regions.  Additionally, Building Permits were little changed in July, coming in just 1,000 less than June’s reading of 1,153K on an annualized basis.  Permits are a more forward-looking metric than Starts and the strength and steadiness seen in Permits attests to the staying power of this long and impressive recovery by the core housing sector.




As for mortgages, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released their latest Mortgage Application Data for the week ending August 12th showing the overall seasonally adjusted Market Composite Index decreased 4.0%.  The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index fell 4.0% from the prior week, while the Refinance Index decreased 4.0%.  Overall, the refinance portion of mortgage activity increased to 62.6% of total applications from 62.4%.  The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity decreased to 4.6% from 4.7% of total applications.  According to the MBA, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with a conforming loan balance decreased from 3.65% to 3.64% with points decreasing to 0.31 from 0.34.


For the week, the FNMA 3.0% coupon bond lost 25.0 basis points to end at $103.53 while the 10-year Treasury yield decreased 6.97 basis points to end at 1.5798%.  Stocks ended the week mixed with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 23.90 points to end at 18,552.57.  The NASDAQ Composite Index advanced 5.48 points to close at 5,238.38, and the S&P 500 Index fell 0.18 of a point to close at 2,183.87.  Year to date, and exclusive of any dividends, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 6.08%, the NASDAQ Composite Index has added 4.41%, and the S&P 500 Index has advanced 6.41%.


This past week, the national average 30-year mortgage rate increased to 3.42% from 3.37% while the 15-year mortgage rate increased to 2.76% from 2.73%.  The 5/1 ARM mortgage rate rose to 2.85% from 2.80%.  FHA 30-year rates increased to 3.25% from 3.15% while Jumbo 30-year rates increased to 3.53% from 3.47%.


Mortgage Rate Forecast with Chart


For the week, the FNMA 30-year 3.0% coupon bond ($103.53, -23 basis points) traded within a narrower 36 basis point range between a weekly intraday high of $103.81 and a weekly intraday low of $103.45 before closing at $103.53 on Friday.


Chart:  FNMA 30-Year 3.0% Coupon Bond



The bond has displayed a sideways consolidation over the past three weeks characterized by choppy trading in and around the 25-day moving average as it converges with the 50-day moving average.  The 25 and 50-day moving averages define closest resistance and support respectively and the bond is getting squeezed between the two to set up the potential for a strong breakout in one direction or the other.


The direction of the pending breakout is currently unclear but may be triggered by economic news next week, especially news from the annual Jackson Hole Symposium hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.  The theme of this year’s conference is “designing resilient monetary policy frameworks.”  The Jackson Hole Symposium is widely seen as a prime stage for Fed chairs to deliver important messages, and the speech next Friday from Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen could result in a significant market move.


Economic Calendar – for the Week of August 22, 2016


The economic calendar features several reports on housing on Tuesday and Wednesday in addition to Durable Goods Orders and the 2nd estimate of GDP for the second quarter on Thursday and Friday.  Economic reports having the greatest potential impact on the financial markets are highlighted in bold.


Date Time


Event /Report /Statistic For Market Expects Prior
Aug 23 10:00 New Home Sales July 580,000 592,000
Aug 24 07:00 MBA Mortgage Index 08/20 NA -4.0%
Aug 24 09:00 FHFA Housing Price Index June NA 0.2%
Aug 24 10:00 Existing Home Sales July 5.54M 5.57M
Aug 24 10:30 Crude Oil Inventories 08/20 NA -2.51M
Aug 25 08:30 Initial Jobless Claims 08/20 265,000 262,000
Aug 25 08:30 Continuing Jobless Claims 08/13 NA 2,175K
Aug 25 08:30 Durable Goods Orders July 3.5% -4.0%
Aug 25 08:30 Durable Goods Orders Excluding Transportation July 0.4% -0.5%
Aug 26 08:30 2nd Estimate GDP Qtr. 2 1.1% 1.2%
Aug 26 08:30 2nd Estimate GDP Deflator Qtr. 2 2.2% 2.2%
Aug 26 08:30 International Trade in Goods July NA -$63.3B
Aug 26 10:00 Final Univ. of Mich. Consumer Sentiment Index Aug 90.6 90.4




Upcoming Federal Reserve FOMC Meeting Schedule & Rate Hike Probability **

September 2016 20-21, (Tuesday-Wednesday) * 18.0% Chance
November 2016 1-2, (Tuesday-Wednesday) 23.3% Chance
December 2016 20-21 (Tuesday-Wednesday)* 43.1% Chance
February 2017 01/31-02/01 (Tuesday-Wednesday) 43.2% Chance
March 2017          14-15 (Tuesday-Wednesday) * 43.4% Chance
May 2017          02-03 (Tuesday-Wednesday) 43.2% Chance
June 2017          13-14 (Tuesday-Wednesday) * 42.5% Chance
July 2017 25-26, (Tuesday-Wednesday) 42.2% Chance


* Meeting associated with a Summary of Economic Projections and a press conference by the Fed Chairman.

** Probability generated from the CME Group FedWatch tool based on the 30-day Fed Funds futures prices.


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