Market Forecast: Consumer Credit, Job Openings, and Mortgage Application Survey

Posted On May 07, 2018

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Mortgage rates did not move significantly last week, holding steady after the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) decision to leave interest rates unchanged.  The consumer credit report comes out on Monday, and though the report excludes mortgage financing, it analyzes other consumer borrowing habits and consumer spending.  In employment news, the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) will come out on Tuesday.  There are no significant housing reports scheduled for release this week, besides the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) weekly mortgage application survey on Wednesday. 

The consumer credit report measures the total outstanding balance of consumers’ revolving and nonrevolving debt.  Revolving debt includes monthly bills like credit card payments and nonrevolving debt counts longer-term debt like student loans and car payments.  Healthy consumer borrowing is a sign of economic strength as consumers are confident they will be able to repay debts.  Too much consumer borrowing could be a sign of sluggish wage growth and consumer price increases, with consumers borrowing to offset lack of available funds for payments.  Consumer borrowing slowed in February, increasing by the least in five months.  After hefty holiday spending, consumers seem to be pulling back on expenditures.

JOLTS reports on changes in job openings, hirings, and voluntary quits.  Though the data lags by one month, it is used to predict labor market trends.  In February, there were 6.052 million reported job openings, down slightly from January’s reading.  With the unemployment rate near record lows, the labor department is nearing full employment.  The most commonly reported problem employers are having is the inability to find skilled workers to fill open positions. 

The MBA mortgage application survey shows weekly changes in mortgage application submissions segmented by new purchase and refinance applications.  For the week ending 4/27, new purchase applications fell 2.0% and refinance applications fell 4.0% for a composite decrease of 2.5%.  After rising to a five-year high, mortgage rates have leveled off and are not likely to move drastically following the Fed’s decision to leave interest rates unchanged. 

Most housing experts agree lack of inventory will be a bigger challenge this year than rising interest rates.  Construction spending fell month-over-month in March but increased annually.  Sustained buyer demand is likely to keep construction activity churning ahead as builders strive to replenish the inventory. 


Sources: Bloomberg, Bloomberg, MarketWatch, MarketWatch, Mortgage News Daily