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Mortgage Rates Climb To Highs Not Seen In More Than Two Years

mortMortgage rates increased for the sixth week in a row to highs not seen in more than two years.

According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average climbed to 4.13 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.08 percent a week ago and 3.95 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed rate hasn’t been this high since October 2014. It has climbed 66 basis points in six weeks. (A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.)

The 15-year fixed-rate average edged up to 3.36 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.34 percent a week ago and 3.19 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average crept up to 3.17 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.15 percent a week ago and 3.03 percent a year ago.

“The 10-year Treasury yield dipped this week following the release of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey,” Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac chief economist, said in a statement. “As rates continue to climb and the year comes to a close, next week’s [Federal Reserve] meeting will be the talk of the town with the markets 94 percent certain of a quarter-point-rate hike.”

The rapid rise in mortgage rates is due in part to rising long-term bond yields. The 10-year Treasury is one of best indicators of where rates are headed. When yields go up, rates go up.

Although long-term bond yields have retreated a bit this week, they remain significantly higher than they were a month ago.

In an interview with CNBC on Monday, New York federal bank president William Dudley, who along with his colleagues will decide next week whether to raise the Federal Reserve’s benchmark rate, spoke about what’s driving the markets.

“What we’ve seen post-election is we’ve seen bond yields up, equity market up, dollar firmer,” he said. “My judgment is that it seems to be that what people are factoring in is [the] likelihood of more fiscal stimulus and reduced downside risk to the economy.”

Dudley went on to say that the bond market also is experiencing a bit of a “correction.”

“Bond yields, even a few weeks ago, were extraordinarily low relative to the likely path of monetary policy in the years ahead,” he said. “I think the correction in the bond market [is] probably a little bit more overdue.”

The sharp increase may be slowing, however., which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that more than half the experts it surveyed said rates will remain relatively unchanged in the coming week. The rest said they will fall.

Meanwhile, mortgage applications were flat this week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – slipped 0.7 percent from the previous week. The refinance index dipped 1 percent, while the purchase index ticked up 0.4 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 56.2 percent of all applications.

“Mortgage rates on 30-year loans have increased 50 basis points since the week prior to the election, hitting their highest level since October 2014, and causing refinance application volume to dip 28 percent to a new low for the year,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist. “Simultaneously, purchase application volume is up almost 12 percent. Refinances are almost entirely driven by mortgage rates, while purchase activity is a function of a broader set of variables including the state of the job market, demographics, and consumer confidence.”

The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) this week that showed credit availability increased in November. The MCAI rose 1.6 percent to 174.1 last month. A decline in the MCAI indicates that lending standards are tightening, while an increase signals they are loosening.

“Mortgage credit availability increased for the third consecutive month in November, driven by increased availability of conventional low down payment and streamlined refinance loan programs,” said Lynn Fisher, MBA’s vice president of research and economics.

(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Kathy Orton

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