Mortgage rates fall amid signs of a weakening economic recovery


(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Weak economic data drove mortgage rates down last week, according to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.

The 30-year fixed-rate average sank to 4.41 percent with an average 0.7 point. It was down from 4.51 percent a week ago and below 4.5 percent for the first time in three weeks. A year ago, the 30-year fixed rate was at 3.38 percent.

The 15-year fixed-rate average also fell, dropping to 3.45 percent with an average 0.7 point. It was 3.56 percent a week ago and 2.66 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed rate moved below 3.5 percent for the first time in five weeks.

Hybrid adjustable rate mortgages were largely unchanged. The five-year ARM average was down to 3.1 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.15 percent a week ago and 2.67 percent a year ago.

The one-year ARM average remained at 2.56 percent with an average 0.5 point for the fourth week in a row.

“Mortgage rates drifted downward this week amid signs of a weakening economic recovery,” Frank E. Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a statement.

“The economy added 74,000 jobs in December, less than the market consensus forecast. Retail sales rose 0.2 percent in December, which was nearly half of November’s 0.4 percent increase. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent which was the lowest since October 2008.”

As interest rates fell, mortgage applications showed an uptick, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of total loan application volume, rose 11.9 percent. The Refinance index grew 11 percent, while the Purchase Index increased 12 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity fell slightly, accounting for 62 percent of all applications.

“Despite an economic outlook of steady growth and a recovering job market, mortgage applications have been decreasing – likely due to a combination of rising rates and regulatory implementation, specifically the new Qualified Mortgage Rule,” Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for MBA said in a statement. “As a result, we have lowered our expectations for both purchase and refinance originations in the first half of 2014.  Purchase originations are now expected to be $677 billion for 2014, compared to $711 billion forecast previously.  Compared to 2013, purchase originations are expected to increase by 3.8 percent.”

Loans under the new mortgage rule are restricted to consumers who have a debt burden that is no more than 43 percent of income.

Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.
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Kathy Orton · January 16