A stronger than expected Employment report on March 6 pushed mortgage rates up to the highest level of 2015. Since then, however, nearly all of the news, both globally and in the US, has been favorable for mortgage rates. In Europe, the European Central Bank (ECB) began its sovereign bond purchase program on March 9. The added demand from the ECB has helped push bond yields lower around the world. In addition, Greek and eurozone officials have made little progress in agreeing to terms for the Greek aid package. This caused investors to shift to safer assets, including US mortgage-backed securities. In the US, the major economic data released since the Employment report has been weaker than expected. Retail Sales, Industrial Production, and Housing Starts all have fallen well short of the consensus. Since slower growth reduces expectations for future inflation, this economic data has been good for mortgage rates. Finally, the largest improvement in mortgage rates took place on Wednesday after the release of the Fed statement. Fed officials downgraded their outlook for the economy and inflation, causing investors to push back their expectations for the timing of federal funds rate hikes.
The Wall Street Journal reported that during tomorrow's European Central Bank (ECB) meeting the executive board of the ECB will recommend to the entire 25-member governing council a plan to begin a sovereign bond purchase program. The plan, which would be similar to the quantitative easing (QE) program used by the US Fed in recent years, would call for purchases of 50 billion euros (about $58 billion) per month for a minimum of one year. These figures are roughly in line with investor expectations, and the reaction in MBS markets has been small so far. If the governing council adopts this plan tomorrow, the impact on MBS may be small.