After a month of increases, mortgage rates retreated this week.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 4.14 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount and are in addition to the interest rate.) It was 4.20 percent a week ago and 4.55 percent a year ago.
The 15-year fixed-rate average dropped to 3.60 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.64 percent a week ago and 4.03 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average tumbled to 3.68 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.77 percent a week ago and 3.69 percent a year ago.
“Slightly weaker inflation and labor economic data caused mortgage rates to dip this week,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement. “Moving into summer, we expect rates to be about a quarter to half a percentage point lower than where they were last year, which is good news for the housing market.”
Not all economic reports this week were disappointing. Others were optimistic. But, combined, they gave off mixed signals about the U.S. economy.
“Encouraging figures released this week, led by a positive initial reading of first-quarter GDP, were counterbalanced by reports that fell short of expectations — consumer spending results were disappointing and inflation figures were muted once again,” said Matthew Speakman, a Zillow economic analyst. “As a result, bond yields — and mortgage rates — spent much of the week oscillating within a narrow band.”
The Federal Reserve declined to raise or lower the federal funds rate at its meeting this week. Chair Jerome H. Powell said the “risks have moderated somewhat” and that “our outlook and my outlook is a positive one . . . for growth for the rest of this year.” However, the Fed also expressed concern about inflation, which it described as “muted.” The central bank doesn’t set mortgage rates, but its decisions influence them.
Friday’s employment data is more likely to have an impact on rates. A better-than-expected report could push mortgage rates higher, but many experts aren’t expecting much movement. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that nearly two-thirds of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week.
“The market looks to be holding steady in this range,” said Derek Egeberg, a certified mortgage planning specialist at Academy Mortgage. “Look for rates to remain near these levels until the summer buying season heats up.”
However, Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, says the deceleration in inflation will help push bond yields and mortgage rates lower.
Meanwhile, mortgage applications were down again. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, the market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — decreased 4.3 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index fell 5 percent from the previous week, while the purchase index dropped 4 percent.
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 38.8 percent of all applications.
“Despite last week’s decline, both purchase and refinance activity are above last year’s levels, with purchases now up year-over-year for the eleventh straight week,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and CEO. “Economic growth above 3 percent, steady job gains and moderating home-price appreciation are providing a solid tailwind for the housing market.”
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