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Rates Consolidate

May 10, 2024

This past week, interest rates held steady or moved sideways after the nice decline we experienced a couple of weeks ago. Let's discuss what happened and look at the news items in the week ahead.

Fed Speakers Toeing the Line

"Eventually we'll have rate cuts, but for now monetary policy is in a very good place," New York President, John Wiliams.

A couple of weeks ago Fed Chair Jerome Powell told the world that there will not be a rate hike nor will there be a cut. This past week, several Fed officials (including Williams quote above) reiterated the notion that a Fed rate cut is not imminent and that they will keep rates higher for longer if needed.

The Fed Funds Futures, which prices in the probability of Fed rate hikes and cuts, is now pricing in a rate cut for September. Just two weeks ago, the chance of an initial rate cut was in November. This highlights how fast markets can change.

Debt Remains a Headwind

Last week, our Treasury Department needed to sell bonds to fund our government. The longer-dated bond auctions like the 10-year Note carry added significance because long-term bonds are subject to inflation risk and opportunity cost.

On Wednesday, the Treasury Department sold a record number of 10-year Notes and the buying appetite was not that great. This means there were not a lot of bids to purchase the bonds at current rates, so rates did not improve. However, it could be viewed as a victory. Remember...the previous 10-yr auction on April 10th was very bad and pushed the 10-year Note yield sharply higher and mortgage-backed securities prices sharply lower.

As the U.S. continues to run federal deficits, it needs to sell bonds to run the government. These bonds must be purchased by the investment community and if the appetite going forward remains tepid, it will put a limit to rate improvement.

Initial Claims Rise

In another sign that the labor market is cooling off, Initial Claims for the past week rose well above expectations. This forward-looking index on labor market health shows more people filing for first-time unemployment benefits. If this trend continues and elevates the unemployment rate, it will strengthen the case for a Fed rate cut sooner.

4.50

The 10-year Note, which ebbs and flows with 30-year mortgage rates, has declined from the highs of the year and is residing near 4.50%. For rates to improve further, we want to see the 10-yr move beneath 4.50% and then 4.35%. Look at the chart section below to see similar technical headwinds for mortgage-backed securities and mortgage rates.

Bottom line: We must remember the Fed is not hiking rates and they are not cutting rates, so further improvement will be in response to the data. Next week, things heat up.

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