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Mortgage News

July 29 2016, 4:15PM

Mortgage rates enjoyed another strong day, falling to the best levels in exactly 2 weeks. Rates were actually set to move higher early this morning, but a much weaker-than-expected reading on Q2 GDP helped drive demand for bonds.  Better buying pushes bond prices higher and rates lower.  The strength in bond markets gave lenders the peace of mind needed in order to offer even better terms than yesterday.  The most prevalent conventional 30yr fixed rate is quickly returning to 3.375% on top tier scenarios.

Next week brings important economic data, including the big jobs report on Friday.  The overall tone of that data should help determine whether rates will continue building on the past 2 days of positive momentum.  The conservative approach would be to lock in the gains with rates at 2-week lows.  The aggressive approach would be to wait until we have clear evidence AGAINST the possibility that a new trend toward lower rates has begun.  As of today, there is no such evidence, but it could come at any time.

Posted by Chris Styner on July 29th, 2016 4:40 PM

WASHINGTON — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week to the lowest level since May 2013, driven down by financial tumult in Europe.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.41 percent from 3.48 percent a week ago. A year ago, the 30-year rate stood at 4.04 percent. The 15-year mortgage rate dropped to 2.74 percent, down from 2.78 percent last week and 3.20 percent a year ago.

After Britain's recent vote to leave the European Union, worried investors fled to the safety of U.S. Treasury bonds. Long-term mortgage rates tend to track the yield on 10-year Treasury notes, which fell to 1.37 percent Wednesday from 1.75 percent before the Brexit vote.

The 30-year fixed rate is now close to its all-time low of 3.31 percent in November 2012.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country at the beginning of each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage remained at 0.5 point this week. The fee for a 15-year loan was unchanged at 0.4 point.

Rates on adjustable five-year mortgages averaged 2.68 percent this week, down from 2.70 percent last week. The fee remained at 0.5 percent.

Posted by Chris Styner on July 7th, 2016 3:55 PM
Jun 16 2016, 3:59PM

Mortgage rates moved lower today, largely because they needed to get caught up with yesterday afternoon's movement in bond markets.  As a reminder, mortgage rates are most directly affected by mortgage-backed-securities (MBS), which tend to move in the same direction as US Treasuries.  Both MBS and Treasuries improved significantly after yesterday's Fed announcement, but lenders have been cautious in adjusting rate sheets to match market movements for a variety of reasons.  When they saw markets were still in good shape when it came time to send out this morning's rate sheets, lenders had a bit more love to share.

As such, we find ourselves well into the lowest rates in more than three years, even if the pace of improvement is lagging the drop in US Treasury rates.  For what it's worth, 2016's mortgage rate improvements have kept up with Treasuries much better than in 2012--the last time markets were moving abruptly for somewhat similar reasons.  The average lender is now down to 3.5% in terms of conventional 30yr fixed quotes for top tier scenarios.  Further improvements from here will be hard fought, so it makes good sense to consider locking to avoid a temporary pull-back ahead of next week's vote on the British referendum on remaining in the European Union.  

Posted by Chris Styner on June 16th, 2016 3:29 PM
by: Matthew Graham  May 10 2016, 3:53PM

Mortgage rates didn't move any lower today, but they earned an important distinction nonetheless.  As of today, you'd have to go back 3 full years to see rate sheets any lower, on average.  May 10th, 2013 was a very bumpy day for rates, and it capped a week that served as the starting point for the 'taper tantrum' (several months of rapidly increasing rates as markets adjusted to the idea that the Fed would be ending its bond buying program).  With a range of 3.5 to 3.625%, today's top tier conventional 30yr fixed quotes are right in line with those seen on May 9th.  

There was no meaningful inspiration for bond markets today, but it is somewhat reassuring that they've continued to hold ground even as stocks have moved much higher in recent days.  While it's never a 1:1 relationship, higher stock prices often accompany a move toward higher rates as investors sell bonds (bond prices and rates have an inverse relationship).  

Given that rates are at 3-year lows and that we've had a tough time breaking any lower from here, there's certainly no reason to second guess locking.  Conversely, given that we've managed to stay low in spite of some headwinds, risk-takers are justified in floating, but should always set a limit as to how much higher rates could go before they lock at a loss.

Loan Originator Perspective

"I am optimistic that rates could test new lows in the near future, but I still went ahead and lock loans that are closing in May.   I think short term, you should take the recent gains, lock in and move on.  Longer term closings, those in June or after, I think floating is the way to go.  " -Victor Burek, Churchill Mortgage

"Rates hovered near unchanged today, despite large corporate bond offerings and a treasury auction.  While "not losing" is a positive, both treasury and MBS prices are well above their 25, 50, and 100 moving day averages.  This typically results in a selloff at some point, the only question is when.  My May pipeline, and most of June's is locked, borrowers sleeping well at night.  Floating may return some additional gains, but borrowers need to realize rates move both ways!" -Ted Rood, Senior Originator

Today's Best-Execution Rates

  • 30YR FIXED - 3.5 - 3.625%
  • FHA/VA - 3.25%-3.5%
  • 15 YEAR FIXED - 3.00%
  • 5 YEAR ARMS -  2.75 - 3.25% depending on the lender

Ongoing Lock/Float Considerations

  • The Fed finally hiked on December 16th, causing fears of rising rates in 2016, but markets began the new year with rates moving surprisingly lower.  Major losses in stocks and oil prices were part of the same trend of investors moving away from risk.
  • After bottoming out fairly close to all-time lows in February, rates have seen only brief episodes of volatility in a low, narrow range.  

  • The Fed's most recent announcement at the end of April reinforced their cautious approach to rate hikes.  The last time that happened, stocks cheered, but this time they've been moving lower.  Bond markets like that, and they'll continue to like it until stocks prove they can break back above 2015 highs.
  • Even though the broader backdrop has taken a positive turn for rates, there are still tactical opportunities to lock.  In general, we look for any prolonged moves lower (i.e. 10 days in a row without moving higher) or any major low-rate milestones (i.e. 3-year lows).
  • As always, please keep in mind that the rates discussed generally refer to what we've termed 'best-execution' (that is, the most frequently quoted, conforming, conventional 30yr fixed rate for top tier borrowers, based not only on the outright price, but also 'bang-for-the-buck.'  Generally speaking, our best-execution rate tends to connote no origination or discount points--though this can vary--and tends to predict Freddie Mac's weekly survey with high accuracy.  It's safe to assume that our best-ex rate is the more timely and accurate of the two due to Freddie's once-a-week polling method).

Posted by Chris Styner on May 10th, 2016 4:26 PM

February 8, 2016 by

Foreign stocks got hammered in the overnight session last night, and that momentum has carried into U.S. equity markets this morning, leading to a sharp sell-off.  Once again Treasuries are benefiting as a safe haven investment, and are rallying this morning.  The yield on 10-year Treasuries is around 1.77% as of writing, which looks to be the lowest yield we’ve seen in more than a year.  Mortgage backed securities, which typically move with Treasuries, are also rallying this morning, and mortgage rates continue to fall.  Last week Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with 0.6 points was 3.72%, the lowest reading since April of 2015.  Rates have declined since the beginning of the year, when the Freddie Mac showed the average 30-year rate to be 3.97%.

As always, you need to be aware that the Freddie Mac surveys are collected early in the week (the results are issued on Thursday), and don’t reflect events that occurred at the end of the week.  Unless there is a big bounce back in stocks this week (and the accompanying sell-off in bonds), we should see even lower rates this week.

Looking back:

Last week, in many ways, was just more of the same.   Further questions were raised about the health of the global economy.  Stocks rallied midweek, only to sell off again at the end of the week, ending up more or less where they started.  Oil prices followed pretty much the same arc.  10-year yields were consistently around 1.90%, give or take a couple of basis points.

Last week’s domestic economic data also continued trends seen in prior weeks/months.  Manufacturing reports showed weakness, and that weakness might be making its way into the service sector, as ISM’s non-manufacturing Survey showed weakness. Most measures of inflation remained subdued.

The most anticipated bit of news last week was January’s employment numbers, which were mixed.  The headline number came in under expectations, but within the range of expected outcomes.  151,000 jobs were added in January, compared with the expectation of 188,000 jobs gained. December’s headline number was revised down from +292,000 jobs to +262,000 jobs.  However, the underlying data showed more strength than the headlines.  The unemployment rate fell from 5.0% to 4.9%.  The workforce participation rate ticked up from 62.6% to 62.7%.  Average hourly earnings were up 0.5% from last month, and are up 2.5% on a year-over-year basis.

So what to make of all this?  Good question, and a good segue into the next section.

Looking ahead:

So the question is, how will all of what’s going on impact the Fed, and will it cause them to slow the pace of rate hikes moving forward, or not?  Last week we heard from several Fed members (Lael Brainerd – dove, William Dudley – dove, and Loretta Mester – hawk), and they all noted the risks that global headwinds pose to the domestic economy, and I think we could characterize all their comments as being somewhat more dovish than anticipated.  Some Fed members had indicated at the end of 2015 that it would likely be appropriate to hike 3-4 times over the course of 2016.  We’ll see if recent developments will force them to back away from that plan.  We hear from Janet Yellen twice this week, so perhaps she will shed some light on what the Fed is thinking.

For what it’s worth, the Fed Funds futures show just a 4% implied probability of a hike at the next Fed meeting in March.  Looking as far forward as December, the futures only show a 25% chance of a hike.  The markets are clearly not buying the idea of 3-4 hikes this year.

As evidenced by yesterday’s game, the markets are not always correct.  Tim Duy, from last Friday “Solid Jobs Report Keeps Fed in Play”:

“Bottom Line: This jobs report complicates the Fed’s decision making process. They are stuck with instability in the financial markets as the economy reaches full employment. They are concerned that in the absence of temporary factors, inflation will quickly jump higher if the economy continues on this trajectory. While they would like unemployment to settle somewhat below NAIRU* to eliminate lingering underemployment, they don’t want it to settle far below NAIRU. They don’t believe they can easily tap the breaks to lift unemployment higher. Recession is almost guaranteed to follow. Hence they would like to be able to rates rates gradually to feel their way around the darkness in which the true value of NAIRU lies. They fear that if they delay additional tightening, they will pass the point of no return in which they are forced to abandon their doctrine of gradualism. The Fed’s policy challenge just became a little bit harder today.”

I think it is also important to remember that the Fed is always concerned with its own credibility.  They do not want to be seen as easily swayed by recency bias, and they want to be perceived as having a plan.  If they were to reverse course so quickly after raising rates, it could be seen as lowering confidence in the Fed.  This isn’t a particularly good reason to take a course of action, but it is a factor.

*NAIRU is the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment.  Basically, if unemployment falls below this level, inflation is expected to increase. Depending upon the economist you prefer to read, this number is believed to be somewhere between 5-6%, and likely fluctuates depending upon a host of factors.

I’m looking for a new mortgage, is now a good time?:

Yeah, it is.  Mortgage rates are about 40 basis points higher than record lows.  Is it possible rates continue to fall?  Sure it is.  It’s also possible that the market rebounds and they return to the levels that we saw around the beginning of the year.  I realize that’s not particularly insightful, but I think it illustrates the point: anything could happen, and anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen should be suspect.  As recently as two months ago, the members of the Federal Reserve, ostensibly some of our best and brightest, thought that we could see 3 or 4 rate hikes this year.  That seems really unlikely now.

If you’re trying to time the market, you’re likely to fail.  If you’re ready for a new mortgage, rates are very advantageous right now.  If you’re seriously considering buying a home or refinancing, but aren’t quite ready to make the leap, you may want to accelerate your timeline.  The markets are very volatile, and rates are subject to change quickly.

Posted by Chris Styner on February 8th, 2016 3:52 PM

By Crissinda Ponder

Interest rates on mortgages fell for the 4th consecutive week as economic worries maintain a stronghold over international markets.

And, as expected, the Federal Reserve's policy-setting committee refrained from further raising the federal funds rate. Concerns were raised about the broader economy, including falling oil prices, however.

"The committee is closely monitoring global economic and financial developments and is assessing their implications for the labor market and inflation, and for the balance of risks to the outlook," a statement from the committee reads.

Home price increases continue

National home prices ticked up 0.9% on a seasonally adjusted basis from October to November 2015, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index released Tuesday. Year over year, prices increased 5.3% from November 2014.

Denver, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, were the only 3 cities in the 20-city composite that saw year-over-year double-digit price gains.

"Basically, the housing market, as measured by prices, is in good shape and the more prices rise, the more homeowners have the equity to make a move," Joel Naroff, president and chief economist for Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania, says in a blog post. "That is good news."

Separate data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency show that home prices rose 0.5% from October to November on a seasonally adjusted basis, and were up 5.9% from the same month in 2014.

A look at this week's rates

  1. The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.94% from 3.98%, according to a Jan. 27 survey of large lenders. A year ago, the rate was 3.8%. Four weeks ago, it was 4.15%. The mortgages in this week's survey had an average total of 0.21 discount and origination points. Over the past 52 weeks, the 30-year fixed has averaged 4.01%. This week's rate is 0.07 percentage points lower than the 52-week average.

  2. The benchmark 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.21% from 3.23%.

  3. The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate jumbo mortgage fell to 3.83% from 3.87%.

  4. The benchmark 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 3.3% from 3.31%.

    Ready for a refi?

    Mortgage applications jumped 8.8% last week compared with the week before, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly survey. The unadjusted purchase index inched up 0.4% and was 22% higher than the same week last year. MBA's survey includes an adjustment for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    To the delight of borrowers, mortgage rates have improved overall since the Fed's initial rate hike at its December meeting, says Brett Sinnott, vice president of capital markets for CMG Financial in San Ramon, California. This is especially true for those interested in refinancing.

    "They've gone back to levels that are close to early 2015 at this point," he says. "Any borrower that was going to miss the train for a refinance got lucky and a 2nd train came through."

    New home sales surge

    New, single-family home sales increased 10.8% from November to December, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development said Wednesday. The seasonally adjusted annual rate was 544,000, which is 9.9% above the December 2014 rate.

    Both the median and average sales prices declined last month, from $302,000 to $288,900 and from $373,500 to $346,400, respectively. The estimated total of new homes sold in 2015 is 501,000 -- the highest number of sales since 2007.

    Now is a great time to enter the housing market, says Jeff DerGurahian, executive vice president of capital markets at LoanDepot in Foothill Ranch, California.

    "With rates still hovering at 4%, affordability is still in a good spot," he says.

Posted by Chris Styner on January 29th, 2016 1:09 PM

Originally posted by Ellen Seidman and Wei Li :: February 12th, 2015

Mortgage interest rates—at 3.59 percent for a 30-year fixed rate loan and 2.92 percent for a 15 year loan—are now at their lowest level since May 2014. Potential homebuyers in the last several years have been consistently hearing that mortgage interest rates are about to go up, but the downward trend of the last year and a half is unmistakable.

The reasons are complex, and of course individual borrowers may not find precisely these rates when they shop. But we recently huddled with our HFPC colleagues to pool our thoughts about the major forces that are pushing mortgage interest rates down.

They fall into two broad categories: forces that affect the interest rate on Treasury securities (reasons 1-3) and those that affect the mortgage risk premium above the Treasury rate (reasons 4 and 5).

  1. Slow growth and turmoil abroad: Though Europe isn’t facing the kind of turmoil it saw in 2011, we are seeing several years of slow growth there and in Japan and a slowdown in China, albeit from a fast pace. And with major turmoil in the Middle East and Ukraine, the United States looks like a much safer place to put money, driving down rates on Treasury debt that in turn drive down mortgage interest rates.
  2. Upheaval in the oil market: The rapid drop in oil prices is generally good news for American consumers (if less positive for American oil producers), but it also signals a degree of uncertainty in the commodity markets. Again, the certainty of Treasuries is alluring when commodity prices fluctuate so wildly.
  3. The US economy is steadily improving: While eventually this recovery will result in higher interest rates, for now, the uncertainty premium that is normally reflected in higher interest rates for longer term debt is small, and reduced from a year ago.
  4. Low Treasury rates, low mortgage rates: Yields on 10-year Treasury securities are typically used to set mortgage rates. Ten-year Treasuries currently yield 1.88 percent, well below historical levels (See Chart: Mortgage Rates Closely Follow Treasury Yields)—although higher than rates in Europe, Japan and Canada. The spread of mortgages over Treasuries is a little under 2 percent, higher than it’s been since September 2012, although in line with historical spreads. But with Treasury rates so low, mortgage rates are also low.
  5. Reduced demand for mortgages: We and others have written about the tight credit box and other factors that have reduced the demand for mortgages. In fact, we estimate that each year about 1.2 million fewer mortgages are being originated than would have been the case if 2001 credit standards were in effect. While mortgage demand may be down for reasons other than requirements for better credit, if the mix of originated mortgages is less risky than it was in the pre-bubble years, the mortgage risk premium can be expected to be lower. Generally increasing housing values should also reduce the risk premium.

There certainly are forces pushing mortgage interest rates in the opposite direction, most notably the tapering of the Federal Reserve’s purchases of mortgage-backed securities (MBS). This reduces the demand for MBS, putting downward pressure on their price and upward pressure on MBS interest rates, which flow through to higher interest rates on the underlying mortgages. And, as we point out in our monthly Chartbook (page 20), guarantee fees on loans purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have increased dramatically. But so far, these forces have not been sufficient to stop the downward trend in mortgage interest rates.

Of the five forces discussed, three—commodity turmoil, very low Treasury rates, and reduced demand for mortgages—are capable of fairly rapid turnarounds. So we should still expect higher interest rates, although none of our colleagues are ready to predict when. But it’s nice to know why we’ve got low rates now.


Posted by Chris Styner on February 12th, 2015 2:59 PM


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