At 8:30 March consumer price index increased 0.5% in line with estimates, the core (ex food and energy) up 0.1% slightly less than 0.2% expected. Yr/yr overall CPI +2.7%, the core yr/yr +1.2%. Inflation concerns still the great debate with the Fed saying don't worry be happy while markets are worrying and are not happy. Who wins? The Fed isn't concerned that inflation in commodity prices will pass through to consumer prices, markets don't like fading the Fed on such a key issue but evidence is increasing that businesses are beginning to pass price increases down the chain. Not yet a major issue but one that bears watching. Bernanke's key word "transitory" describing inflation of commodity prices is keeping rates from moving higher but equally keeping rates from declining.
There is so much focus on inflation with global inflation increasing in Europe, China, India, Brazil, Russia and emerging markets that markets completely ignored the NY Empire State manufacturing data also out at 8:30 this morning. Normally the NY report gets attention even though it is a a small regional series, this morning it was as if it didn't exist. The overall index was expected to have declined to 15.0 frm 17.5 in March, as reported it jumped to 21.7. The sub-components also stronger; new orders index 22.34 frm 5.81, prices pd 57.69 frm 53.25 and employment at 23.08 frm 9.09. On another day those improvements would have pressured rates and improved stock indexes; today there was no interest in it.
While we hold our outlook that interest rates will slowly rise by the end of the yr, the near term is looking a little better; that said as long as the 10 yr continues to be comfortable in its near term narrow 10 bp range (3.40% to 3.50%) showing no tipping of the balance; mortgage rates also stuck in their ranges and will remain there until the 10 yr breaks in either direction.
Holding rates steady is the increasing realization that Q1 economic growth will be far less than what markets were believing just two weeks ago. More economists and some Fed officials are cutting Q1 GDP estimates to 2.0% growth from 3.55 to 4.0% that had been prevalent. Looks more and more like the unfettered optimism that was the consensus just a week ago has now been rattled especially when we have Fed district Presidents out there down-playing economic growth; a key reason that inflation concerns may be waning. The Fed's Plosser (Philly Fed) out this morning saying he isn't worried about inflation for at least another year; likely he sees economic weakness coming-----we agree but with rates increasing globally the US won't be able to easily fund the deficits at low rates.
At 9:15 March industrial production was expected up 0.5%, it increased 0.8% and factory utilization increased to 77.4% (the highest since August 2008) frm 76.9% in Feb. Both stronger than thought but there was no reaction to the data in the bond and mortgage markets. The stock indexes however have improved; early on the indexes were lower, at 9:20 the DJIA up 10 points and the S&P about unchanged (+1.5 points).
At 9:30 the DJIA opened +26, the 10 yr +19/32 at 3.43% -6 bp and mortgage prices +14/32 (.44 bp).
The final data point today; at 9:55 the U. of Michigan consumer sentiment index, expected at 66.0 frm 67.5, was 69.6, the current conditions index 82.7 frm 82.5, 12 month out expectations 75 frm 60; the 12 month inflation index was unchanged at 4.6. The rate markets got a minor boost on the data, so too the stock market-----a little for everyone in the data.
A couple of Fed speakers today; at 10:00 Alt Fed's Evans, at 1:30 KC Fed Pres Hoenig, Hoenig is the Fed's maverick wanting no QE and the Fed to begin thinking about tightening.
Listening and watching analysts, economists and politicians the take away is at the end of the day uncertainty is how most end their various forecasts. Not unusual to couch forecasts but recently the couching has taken on a higher level. Economic growth but at what pace? China, India, Russia, Germany, and emerging markets expanding at rapid rates; the US dragging along with more now revising growth lower than what had been though a couple of weeks ago. The bond and mortgage markets holding steady with little changes in interest rates over the past three weeks; we will continue our conservative approach to trading as long as our favorite 10 yr note sticks in its 10 bp range---no long positions, no shorting either----sometimes its better to just watch.