What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week: April 20, 2009

Consumer Sentiment is rising -- a potentially bad sign for mortgage ratesFor the third week in a row, mortgage markets improved early in the week, only to give back the gains before Friday’s close.

Mortgage rates ended last week exactly where they started.  However, if you locked your mortgage rate Tuesday, you got a rate decidedly lower than someone who waited until Friday.

Last week, one of the biggest mortgage rate drivers was a series of surprisingly strong corporate earning reports, including those from financial firms Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

The positive reports pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its 6th consecutive weekly gain.  This is the market’s longest winning streak in two years and its best 6-week rally since 1938, in percentage terms.

In part, the rally is boosting Consumer Sentiment, too.  According to a survey, Americans are feeling better about the economy than at any time since last September’s meltdown.

But while stock market rallies and rising consumer sentiment can be good for our investment portfolios, they’re not always welcome when we’re shopping for mortgage rates.  This is because the bond market is considered a “safe place” for money, an alternative for when stock markets are risky.

When market risk is reduced like, say, following 6 consecutive weeks of gains, the safe haven of bonds loses some of its importance to investors.

As a result, bonds start to sell-off so more cash is available to invest in equities.  Bond prices suffer when this happens and, because mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage bonds, mortgage rates suffer, too.

This week, there are a number of large corporations reporting first quarter earnings including banking behemoths Bank of America and US Bank, plus companies like IBM, AT&T and McDonald’s.  Strong earnings may — again — lead mortgage rates higher.

If you’re among the thousands of Americans still waiting for mortgage rates to “bottom out”, consider that the bottom may have already been touched.

It’s tough to follow mortgage rates in real-time so, at least in the short-term, you can find some clues in the stock market.  If stock markets are rising this week, it’s likely mortgage rates are, too.