Fixed mortgage rates stumbled slightly this week, falling for the first time in more than a month.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 4.71 percent with an average 0.4 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.72 percent a week ago and 3.85 percent a year ago.
The 15-year fixed-rate average slid to 4.15 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 4.16 percent a week ago and 3.15 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable-rate average increased to 4.01 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 3.97 percent a week ago and 3.18 percent a year ago. The five-year ARM hasn’t been this high in more than eight years.
The last time the averages of the three major mortgage products were all above 4 percent was April 2010.
“Mortgage rates inched back a little in this week’s survey … after hitting a seven-year high last week,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement. “There is upside risk to mortgage rates as the economy remains very robust, and this is reflected in the very recent strength in the fixed income and equities markets. However, the strength in the economy has failed to translate to gains in the housing market as higher mortgage rates have contributed to the decrease in home-purchase applications, which are down from a year ago. With mortgage rates expected to track higher, it’s going to be a challenge for the housing market to regain momentum.”
Although rates reversed course this week, they are expected to resume their upward march. Mortgage rates tend to follow the same path as long-term bonds. When U.S. Treasury prices fall and yields go up, home-loan rates tend to rise as well. This week, the yield on the 10-year Treasury surged to 3.15 percent, the highest it has been in seven years.
Tuesday’s “private payrolls report exceeded expectations and reinforced the strength of the booming U.S. economy,” said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “If Friday’s employment report is in line with the jobs release, a return to rapid rate increases could be in store.”
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found almost half the experts it surveyed say rates will rise in the coming week. Shashank Shekhar, CEO of Arcus Lending, is one who expects rates to move higher.
“Mortgage bonds got a powerful one-two punch of very strong jobs and the Institute for Supply Management data,” Shekhar said. “The ISM readings hit the highest point in 20 years. Note that the ISM report represents more than two-thirds of our economic engine. This combination of robust economic news will continue to push the mortgage rates higher in the coming week.”
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 — was unchanged from a week earlier. The refinance index increased 0.1 percent from the previous week, while the purchase index decreased 0.2 percent.
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 39.4 percent of all applications.
“It’s noteworthy that purchase applications have been trending higher than year-ago levels for the last seven weeks, including the most recent 3 percent gain,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA’s president and CEO. “Despite supply and affordability constraints, interest in home buying this fall is still very strong.”
The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) this week that showed credit availability decreased in September. The MCAI fell 0.8 percent to 182.1 last month. A decline in the MCAI indicates lending standards are tightening, while an increase signals they are loosening.
“Credit availability moved lower in September, as tightening in the government index offset an increase in conventional credit availability,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist. “The decline in government credit was driven by fewer streamline offerings as well as a decline in loan programs with lower credit requirements. The government index is at its lowest level since July 2015. The jumbo subindex increased for the fifth time in six months and reached its highest level since we started tracking jumbo credit.”
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