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SHIFT FROM STOCKS TO BONDS

The stock market was the biggest influence on mortgage rates this week, as investors shifted assets from stocks to bonds. The Fed Minutes also were favorable for mortgage rates, and rates ended the week lower, near the lowest levels of the year.

Beginning with the Jobs report last week, investors became more bearish about the stock market, and investors grew more concerned this week that upcoming earnings releases will be weak. As a result, investors have reduced their positions in stocks, causing the Dow stock index to fall over 500 points from last week’s record high.

Some of the proceeds from the stock sales were used to purchase bonds, including mortgage-backed securities (MBS). MBS prices increased from the added demand, leading to an improvement in mortgage rates.

Wednesday’s release of the FOMC Minutes from the March 19 Fed meeting also helped mortgage rates. In the Minutes, some Fed officials expressed concern that inflation would remain below the Fed’s target level of 2.0% for years. While this may be bad from the Fed’s point of view, low inflation is positive for mortgage rates.

Next week, Retail Sales will be released on Monday. Retail Sales account for about 70% of economic activity. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), the most closely watched monthly inflation report, will come out on Tuesday. CPI looks at the price change for finished goods which are sold to consumers. Housing Starts and Industrial Production will come out on Wednesday. Philly Fed and Empire State will round out the schedule.