The big news this week was a major selloff in the stock market, with the Dow down more than 1,000 points. Normally that would be positive for mortgage rates, but this time the impact was minor. Weaker than expected inflation data was mildly positive, and mortgage rates ended slightly lower, but remain near their highest levels in many years.
It is common to see mortgage rates fall when the stock market declines, and vice versa, but this is not always the case. It depends on the reason for the movement. Most of the time, the cause is shifting expectations for economic growth based on newly released data. Stronger growth is good for stocks, but it raises the outlook for future inflation, so it is negative for mortgage rates, and the reverse is true as well.
This week, a wider range of factors influenced financial markets, most of which were negative for stocks. However, their expected impact on mortgage rates was mixed, and the net overall effect was small. For example, tariffs generally are a drag on economic growth, but they also raise prices, which leads to higher future inflation. In addition, the supply of bonds around the world is increasing. One reason is that global central banks are reducing their holdings of bonds. Also, the U.S. budget deficit is growing due to boosted spending and tax cuts, forcing the government to issue more bonds. To summarize, higher inflation and greater supply roughly offset slower growth.
The most significant economic report released this week was Thursday’s inflation data. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), the most closely watched monthly inflation report, looks at the price change for finished goods and services. Thursday’s data revealed that inflation was lower than expected in September.
Core CPI, which excludes the volatile food and energy components, was 2.2% higher than a year ago, the same annual rate of increase as the prior month. Since lower inflation is good for mortgage rates, this weaker than expected data caused rates to decline a bit.
Looking ahead, Retail Sales will be released on Monday. Since consumer spending accounts for about 70% of all economic activity in the U.S., the retail sales data is a key indicator of growth. The minutes from the September 26 Fed meeting will come out on Wednesday. These detailed minutes provide additional insight into the debate between Fed officials about future monetary policy and have the potential to move markets. In the housing sector, Housing Starts will be released on Wednesday and Existing Home Sales on Friday.