Mortgage rates hit their highest point in more than a month after three consecutive weeks of increases.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average climbed to 4.6 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.54 percent a week ago and 3.78 percent a year ago.
The 15-year fixed-rate average jumped to 4.06 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.99 percent a week ago and 3.08 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable-rate average was unchanged at 3.93 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 3.13 percent a year ago.
“Mortgage rates are currently 0.82 [of a percentage point] higher than a year ago, which is the biggest year-over-year increase since May 2014,” Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac, said in a statement.
August’s record-breaking wage growth pushed inflation concerns to the top of investors’ minds this week, said Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com. Their anxiety is part of what is driving home-loan rates higher.
“Investors demanding compensation for the risk that tomorrow’s money will be worth less than today’s, as well as speculation that the Fed will push up short-term rates in order to fight the risk of higher inflation, both contributed to the increase,” Hale said.
Positive economic news caused the yield on the 10-year Treasury to inch closer to 3 percent this week, rising to 2.98 percent on Tuesday. Because mortgage rates tend to follow the same path as long-term bonds, they also moved higher.
“There is a boatload of strong economic data that are increasing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which is directly co-relational to increase in mortgage rates,” Shashank Shekhar, CEO of Arcus Lending, said. “First, there was strong jobs data on Friday, and now the small business sentiment index is reaching a record. Add to that the number of unfilled jobs touching a new high and upbeat expectations on a trade talk, you get a perfect storm to pressure the mortgage rates higher.”
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that more than half the experts it surveyed say rates will rise in the coming week. Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, is one who predicts rates will continue to go up.
“Better economic news has overtaken worries about emerging markets and pushed bond yields and mortgage rates higher,” McBride said. “This may well turn around if the 10-year Treasury yield goes above 3 percent.”
Jim Sahnger, mortgage planner at C2 Financial, disagrees.
“Rates popped up a bit from last week as investors got spooked by the hotter than expected hourly wages component of the employment report,” Sahnger said. “Bonds and mortgage rates get hammered by inflation, and any hint of current or future inflation can cause rates to pop. … I think rates got a little ahead of themselves, and the technicals show they are a bit oversold. We should see a slight reprieve over the next week.”
Meanwhile, mortgage applications were down this week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index -- a measure of total loan application volume – decreased 1.8 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index fell 6 percent from the previous week to its lowest level since 2000. The purchase index ticked up 1 percent.
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 37.8 percent of all applications.
“Positive economic news on wage growth, unemployment claims and manufacturing pushed Treasury rates up over the past week,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and CEO. “This drove mortgage rates up to a five-week high and refinance activity down to an 18-year low, pulling overall mortgage application activity down as well.”
The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) this week. It showed credit availability diminished in August. The MCAI slipped 0.3 percent to 183.5 last month. A decline in the MCAI indicates that lending standards are tightening, while an increase signals they are loosening.
“Overall credit availability saw a slight decrease in August, for the first time in four months, as the jumbo index retreated from its record high in July,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist. “Strong month-over-month increases in the jumbo index reversed because of a reduction in the number of jumbo programs. The decline in jumbo credit availability was offset partially by an increase in the conforming index, which increased over the month due to the addition of low down payment programs.”
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