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Economic calendar, week of April 12-16

By Holden Lewis · Bankrate.com
Monday, April 12, 2010
Posted: 11 am ET

This week's most important economic reports (for mortgages) happen on Wednesday. If you think they're going to deliver good economic news, you should lock your mortgage rate because they're likely to rise more. If you think the economic reports will bring rotten news, then rates could fall.

Rates have been rising for the last couple of weeks, and investors will view economic reports through that prism. Neutral news won't reverse the upward trend of mortgage rates. I'm talking about the trend -- rates might fall this day or that, but over the medium and long term, they're rising.

Tuesday brings us news of export and import prices and the trade balance. On Wednesday, we get the Consumer Price Index for March, the retail sales report for March and the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, the central bank's anecdotal report on economic activity by region.

Economists and investors will read these reports to see if they tell a similar story or if they contradict one another. If the CPI is up substantially, then you would expect a healthy retail sales report and a somewhat optimistic Beige Book. If all three of those things happen, you can expect mortgage rates to go up.

But the reports won't necessarily tell the same story. If consumer prices were up but retail sales were blah, or if retail sales were up but the Fed says the economy is weakening in some parts of the country, investors will be confused and you might see hefty swings in mortgage rates in the second half of the week.

My advice: If you're going to close your loan by the end of next week, it might be a good idea to lock your rate by Tuesday afternoon. Don't take this as the last word; consult your loan officer or broker.

Friday brings the reports on housing starts and house construction permits in March. I think the markets will interpret these reports as good news, no matter what the reports say. If housing starts are up, it's a sign of an improving economy; if housing starts are down, it's a sign that builders are sane, and that the number of new-but-empty houses will dwindle, propping up prices in the medium term.

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