Nov 152017

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By G. Steven Bray

Did you catch the dip in mortgage rates last week? It was sweet while it lasted. Rates bumped back up at the end of the week.

If you didn’t catch it, let’s see what the crystal ball holds for rates going forward. Markets seem focused on two issues:

– The first is inflation. Despite the unprecedented efforts of the Federal Reserve, inflation has been virtually non-existent throughout this recovery. The Fed has a target rate of 2%, and the Fed’s favored measure, the PCE, hasn’t been that high in a long time.

This morning, we got the Oct Consumer Price Index. While this isn’t the one the Fed watches, it has historical significance, and markets pay attention. Several other inflation metrics recently have indicated budding pricing pressure, but the CPI remained pretty tame with core inflation still under 2%. So, while markets wait for the next inflation report, they’ll probably turn their full attention to the second issue.

– And that is tax reform. Given the current positive momentum, rates are feeling an updraft. Granted the House and Senate plans differ, but I don’t think markets are particularly concerned about which plan wins. They only care about the boost that lower tax rates will give the economy. And an economic boost should pressure interest rates higher.

Of course, one scary headline could quickly deflate this momentum. But absent that, I suggest you remain defensive for higher rates.

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