THE BASIS POINT

WeeklyBasis 11/5: Rates Holding Near Record Lows

Rates were down .125% last week, ending .125% above record lows last hit October 3. But we did touch those record lows of 3.875% zero points (on single family home loans to $417k) briefly during Tuesday’s trading.

Below I recap last week, preview what’s coming next week, and remind consumers how to lock record rate lows that come and go in minutes. NOTE: Bond/rate markets closed Friday, November 11 for Veteran’s Day.

RECAP OCTOBER 31 – NOVEMBER 4 MARKET WEEK
Manufacturing: The Institute for Supply Management October manufacturing index was 50.8, with 50 as dividing line between expansion and contraction. September was 51.6. Good news: 27 months of growth. Bad news: barely growing.

Fed AND European Central Bank Meetings: No surprises from the Fed: overnight bank-to-bank rates near zero and they’ll continue reinvesting proceeds from mortgage holdings into new mortgage bonds to keep longer-term rates low. Europe’s Fed equivalent, now led by Mario Draghi, cut their one-week bank-to-bank rates from 1.5% to 1.25% to provide extra liquidity amidst debt crisis.

Jobs Report: 80k non-farm jobs were created in October. Weak report even with September revised from 103,000 to 158,000 and August revised from 57,000 to 104,000. About 2.3m jobs were created since an employment trough in February 2010, but there are still 6.47m fewer jobs than the beginning of the recession in December 2007. Over the past 12m, about 125,000 new jobs were created per month: not enough to keep pace with population growth.

PREVIEW NOVEMBER 7-11 MARKET WEEK
Here are next week’s economic calendar highlights with rate impacts:

Greece/Europe: Rates and stocks rose after the Oct 27 EU deal saying private Greek bond investors must take 50% writedowns. This was one condition of the next EU/IMF bailout payment Greece needs within 30 days to stay afloat. Another condition is ongoing austerity: pay cuts and tax hikes. So last week Greek prime minister George Papandreou said he wanted to let his people vote on austerity measures—as though they have a choice. The result: rates dropped again as U.S. mortgage bonds rallied and stocks sold. This up-down rate (and stock) trend will continue as the Greek charade continues.

Treasury Auctions: $72 billion in new Treasury debt will be auctioned into markets as follows: $32b 3yr Notes Tuesday, $24b 10yr Notes Wednesday, $16b 30yr bonds Thursday. Demand for these auctions, especially the 10yr and 30yr maturities, can dictate the mood in mortgage bond trading, but rates should remain even on auctions as U.S. debt remains a safe haven.

Consumer/Real Estate Themed Earnings: Another big earnings week with lots reports that will give a reading on consumers and real estate, including: Priceline.com, Sotheby’s, Dish Networks, Toyota, Vodafone, Anheuser Busch InBev, General Motors, HSBC, Macy’s, General Growth Properties, Ralph Lauren, Wendy’s, Cisco, Lionsgate Entertainment, Viacom, Disney, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, DR Horton.

Jobless Claims: This is a weekly report Thursdays. Claims for unemployment insurance were 397k last week, below the 400k threshold considered to signal an improving jobs picture. Still the 4-week average is 406k, so next week would have to continue the trend. Unless Thursday’s number is meaningfully below last week’s mark, rates will be even.

Technical Trading Factors: Looking at stocks, the S&P 500 closed last week at 1253, below the 200 day moving average they topped the week before. Charts suggest a trading range of 1215 to 1285 near term. It’s a broad range but volatility this year warrants it. The theme is similar for mortgage bonds—namely the 3.5% Fannie Mae coupon most lenders use to price consumer rate sheets. They closed the week well above their 50 day moving average, suggesting rates could move a bit lower. But the stock/bond reverse correlation is critical here. The volatility on both sides will continue as investors shift back and forth.

Bottom Line For Rates: Going into last week I said the week would be key to determine whether rates rise near-term or hold this volatile .25%-above-record-low range we’d been in since October 7. Now, record lows (see paragraph 1) seem feasible to touch again given technical trading factors noted above. Next week is a slow economic week so Europe will be the main theme, which means continued extreme volatility. So as I’ve been saying for several weeks, read the post below to understand how to capture the lows.
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