It has been another rough week for mortgage rates. Volatility has been high. The market action was driven almost entirely by expected policy changes under the Trump administration. Mortgage rates rose during the week to the highest levels of the year.
Investors expect that the policy changes under a Trump administration will be good for stocks and negative for bonds. Expectations of greater fiscal stimulus are good for stocks, but they also raise the outlook for future inflation. This is bad for bonds because investors judge the value of bonds based on their future cash flow. An increase in inflation reduces the value of future cash flows, so investors demand a higher yield when the outlook for inflation rises. Since mortgage rates are set based on the value of mortgage-backed securities (MBS), higher yields for MBS lead to higher mortgage rates.
While it had little market impact, the report on housing starts was very encouraging. In October, total housing starts rose a massive 26% from September to an annual rate of 1.32 million, far above the consensus of just 1.17 million, and the fastest pace since August 2007.
Strong gains were seen in both single-family and multi-family units. Single-family starts, which make up about 60% of the market, increased 11% to the highest level since October 2007. Building permits for single-family homes also rose in October, which is a positive sign for future activity.
Looking ahead, new information about the plans of the Trump administration likely will continue to influence mortgage rates. In addition, Existing Home Sales will be released on Tuesday. New Home Sales and Durable Orders will come out on Wednesday. The minutes from the November 2 Fed meeting also will come out on Wednesday. These detailed minutes provide additional insight into the debate between Fed officials. The minutes are not likely to change investor expectations for a rate hike at the next Fed meeting on December 14. Mortgage markets will be closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving.
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