THE BASIS POINT

WeeklyBasis 10/15: Rates Up .375%

Rates rose .125% last week after a .25% climb the week before. Rates are up .375% in the past two weeks, but still extremely low. My WeeklyBasis prediction last week was even rates as markets “start with rates up slightly on perception of progress in Europe, then fade.”

It didn’t fade yet but I also noted that “rates will continue to rise and fall on each little development in the European debt crisis.” So let’s look at the latest in Europe and preview the October 17-21 week.

Recap Oct 10-14 Market Week
Overly optimistic interpretations of “less bad” news and data continue to drive trading.

Jobless claims last week were 404k, above but close to the 400k line, below which the job market is considered to be improving.

September retail sales were 1.1%, which was at the high end of expectations and the largest gain in 7 months.

Eurozone leaders are inching toward a new plan for recapitalizing banks and the bailout du jour for Greece. More below.

The result of this less bad news and data was that the S&P 500 rose squarely above it’s 50 day moving average (chart), and mortgage bonds (3.5% FNMA coupon) dropped below their 50 day moving average.

Rates rise when bond prices drop like this.

Preview Oct 17-21 Market Week
Here are next week’s economic calendar highlights with rate impacts:

Monster Earnings Week: This week is huge for earnings including reports from Apple, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and GE. Tech companies should be ok but financials may offset. Stock momentum was strong last week, contributing to bond selling that pushes rates up. Rates could rise a bit more on better earnings.

Manufacturing Reports: The October Empire State and Philly Fed manufacturing reports are released Monday and Thursday. Both reports were down sharply last month (-8.82 and -17.5 respectively). Any improvement will be in the ‘less bad’ category, which would bring negative rate sentiment. Rates even to up.

Europe Remains Huge U.S. Rate Factor: I’ll repeat a note from last week that market optimism about Eurozone bank safety nets misses the main point: Bank liquidity moves probably won’t stop defaults, they’ll just help manage liquidity problems when defaults come—and U.S. rates would likely benefit from Eurozone defaults. This needs to play out further, but there’s still no clear evidence supporting a sustained rate spike. It might not come this week since there’s new reports of progress, but this story is far from over, and the only bright spot is low U.S. rates medium term.

Technical Trading Factors: The 50 day moving averages noted above are important because there’s still room to drop from here—enough to push rates up another .125% to .25% near term. Charts (or “technicals”) are critical but ultimately impacted by economic fundamentals, which aren’t strong.

Inflation: September consumer and business inflation reports are Tuesday and Wednesday. No strong inflation trend here, so rates even.

Housing Starts & Existing Home Sales: Housing starts have been dismal and no big change expected. Existing home sales rose 7.7% in August, a five month high, so if this turns into a two-month trend, it will provide some optimism. Rates even.

Bottom Line For Rates: Rates could rise more next week on further perception of progress in Europe and corporate earnings, but it’s still reasonable to expect another dip to record levels in the coming months as Eurozone issues play out.

Here’s a MUST READ while waiting: How To Shop For A Mortgage.