Monday, February 8, 2010

Market Recap - week ending 02/05/10

The biggest influence on mortgage rates this week came from outside the US. Concerns about the possible default of sovereign debt in smaller nations caused investors to seek the relative safety of US fixed income securities. This week's economic data was roughly balanced in terms of positive and negative surprises. The added demand for safer investments helped mortgage rates move lower during the week.

The recession has impacted countries in different ways. Some of the hardest hit have been smaller European nations, such as Greece and Spain. As members of the European Union, they must adhere to certain restrictions which limit their flexibility to adjust domestic economic policy. As a result, some countries may be at risk of defaulting on government debt. Investors responded by buying relatively safer assets such as US bonds, including agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Investors also withdrew money from global stock markets during the week. In the US, the Dow fell about 200 points.

Friday's important Employment report contained mixed news. Against a consensus forecast for a gain of 15K jobs, the economy lost -20K jobs in January. The big story, though, was an unexpected drop in the Unemployment Rate to 9.7% from 10.0% in December. Two separate sources of data are used to compute the change in jobs and the change in the unemployment rate, and during volatile periods the two methods can show widely divergent results. The decline in the unemployment rate in January was viewed as very good news by many economists, pointing to an improving labor market. On a more negative note, revisions to older data showed that the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007, from the previous reported level of 7.2 million.

It will be a light week for economic data next week. The biggest report will be Thursday's Retail Sales data. Retail Sales account for about 70% of economic activity. The Trade Balance will come out on Wednesday, and Consumer Sentiment will be re leased on Friday. There will be Treasury auctions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

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