Mortgage investors were more focused on this week’s Treasury auctions than on the economic data. Overall, demand remained healthy for US Treasury securities, and mortgage rates ended the week a little lower. Major economic reports on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Durable Orders, and Chicago PMI manufacturing contained mixed results and were roughly neutral for mortgage rates.

While recent Treasury auctions have seen stronger than average demand, investors remained cautious ahead of this week’s record supply of government debt. The auctions got off to a rocky start, with demand falling back to average levels for the 2-yr and 5-yr auctions. Strong foreign demand for the 7-yr Treasuries eased investor concerns, however, and mortgage rates improved after the auction. China, in particular, holds about $800 billion in US Treasury securities and is an enormous buyer. Chinese officials were in Washington this week meeting with US economic leaders, and the Chinese expressed concern that US budget deficits would reduce the value of its US Treasuries. Analysts believe that reduced buying from China caused the weaker than expected demand for the 2-yr and 5-yr auctions, but they fully participated in the 7-yr auction. With the US government issuing record amounts of new debt, investors will be closely watching for changes in China’s purchasing policy. Any perceived reduction in China’s demand would likely push long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, higher.

This week’s housing market data was generally positive. June New Home Sales jumped 11%, the third straight month of increases. Inventories of unsold new homes fell to an 8.8-month supply from a 10.2-month supply in May. The May Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas rose 0.5% from April, following 34 straight months of declines. While the results varied greatly in different parts of the country, the increase in average prices provided support for the analysts who believe that the housing market has bottomed.