After several weeks of improving economic forecasts, weaker than expected economic data this week tempered some of the optimism for a near-term recovery, which was favorable for mortgage markets. Tame inflation data and sustained Fed purchases of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) also helped. As a result, mortgage rates fell moderately during the week.
With a full economic calendar, the biggest surprise this week was the unexpectedly weak Retail Sales report. Retail Sales account for about 70% of economic activity, and many investors were hopeful that the report would lend support to the idea that the economy is poised to turn higher. Instead, a moderate decline in the monthly data caused investors to question how quickly the economy will rebound. For mortgage markets, weaker economic activity is good news, since it generally means lower inflation. The monthly inflation reports released this week showed that inflation is not a concern in the short-term. The April Consumer Price Index (CPI) was unchanged from March, and Core CPI inflation rose at a moderate 1.9% annual rate.
The Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced this week that home buyers will be allowed to use the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit for down payments on purchases financed by FHA loans. FHA will allow approved lenders, nonprofits, and government agencies to advance the funds in the form of bridge loans that buyers would use for down payments. Buyers would repay the loans after they receive their tax refunds. The FHA will release more details on the program soon.