Over the past week, volatility in mortgage rates was at the lowest level since the election. The main market mover was the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting. Sunday's referendum vote in Italy had little impact on U.S. markets, and the U.S. economic data also caused little reaction. While it was another good week for the stock market, mortgage rates ended the week with little change.
On Wednesday, global bond yields, including U.S. mortgage rates, declined on hopes of good news from Thursday's ECB meeting. The outcome was not as favorable as hoped, however, and the improvement was reversed on Thursday. Ahead of the meeting, investors generally expected that the ECB would extend its bond purchase program for another six months. On this front, investors were pleased, as the ECB extended the program by nine months through December 2017. The disappointment came from the unexpected news that the monthly purchases will decrease from 80 billion euros to 60 billion euros beginning in April. The reduction in the level of stimulus removed some expected future demand for bonds, causing yields to rise, offsetting the prior day's decline.
The most significant U.S. economic data released over the past week revealed another sign that the economy is ending the year on a stronger note. The November ISM national services index increased more than expected to 57.2, which was the highest level in a year. The service sector employs the vast majority of U.S. workers.
Readings above 50 indicate that the sector is expanding. This follows last week's reading of 53.2 for the November ISM national manufacturing index, which also exceeded expectations.
Looking ahead, the next U.S. Fed meeting will take place on Wednesday. It is widely expected that the Fed will raise the federal funds rate, so investors mainly will be looking for guidance about the pace of future tightening. Also on Wednesday, Retail Sales will be released. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of economic output in the U.S., and the retail sales data is a key indicator. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), a widely followed monthly inflation report, will come out on Thursday. CPI looks at the price change for goods and services which are sold to consumers. Housing Starts will be released on Friday.