Mortgage rates improved modestly today as markets digested tax bill headlines and the confirmation hearing for new Fed Chair Jerome Powell. As the head of the institution that has the biggest impact on short-term rate momentum, Powell is an important figure. Markets already felt like they knew him pretty well, but today was his first time in the hottest of seats (fielding questions from US Senators seeking to advance some political agenda almost completely unrelated to Powell’s new job duties).
Not only did Powell handle himself well, but he struck a more rate-friendly tone than was generally expected. Bond markets (which underlie day-to-day rate movement) liked what they heard, as did stocks (which also benefit from easier Fed policy).