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.
There was very little change in today's Fed statement from the prior statement released on June 19. Investors viewed this as good news for MBS, since the most likely potential changes would have been negative for MBS. For example, some investors thought that the Fed would provide more concrete guidance on the timing to begin to taper its bond purchases. Instead, by avoiding specifics, Fed officials left the timing more open-ended. A decline in the quantity of Fed bond purchases will be negative for MBS. The primary change to the statement was the Fed's description of the economy. The statement said that the economy is growing at a "modest" pace, while the last statement said that the pace of economic growth was "moderate". The statement noted that Fed officials expect inflation to rise moderately over the medium term, but that there is a risk that it will decline to undesirable levels. The consensus view is still that the Fed will begin to taper its bond purchases in September, unless economic growth weakens significantly. Friday's Employment report will be one of the major upcoming data points which will influence future Fed policy.