The volatility of mortgage rates this month has caused plenty of angst for home buyers and owners wanting to refinance. But this week’s retreat comes as welcome news.

According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average fell to 3.64 percent with an average 0.6 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 3.73 percent a week ago and 4.72 percent a year ago.

It has been a volatile month for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage, the most popular home loan product. The 30-year started September at 3.49 percent and climbed to 3.73 percent a week ago before falling back this week.

The 15-year fixed-rate average dropped to 3.16 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.21 percent a week ago and 4.16 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average tumbled to 3.38 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.49 percent a week ago and 3.97 percent a year ago.

“Unwelcome news about Chinese trade officials cutting short a trip to the U.S. and Monday’s weak reading on the Eurozone’s manufacturing sector sent bond yields, and mortgage rates, downward,” said Matthew Speakman, a Zillow economist. “The latter painted an ominous picture for the German economy, which now appears to be on the brink of a recession.”

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To understand why the 30-year has bounced around lately, it is necessary to look at the movement of the 10-year Treasury. Although this measure hasn’t been a reliable indicator recently, it can be a good predictor of where mortgage rates are headed. When yields fall — and bond prices rise — home loan rates tend to move lower. When yields rise, they usually move higher.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury has been all over the place this month. It started September at a low of 1.47 percent — keep in mind it was 2.76 percent just six months ago — before rising to 1.90 percent Sept. 13. It fell back to 1.64 percent on Tuesday before rallying to 1.73 percent on Wednesday.

Yields were driven down this week after the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index sank to a three-month low of 125.1 over concerns about continued trade tensions with China. Because consumer spending drives 70 percent of the economy, anxious investors fled to safety, driving bond prices higher and yields lower.

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Given the past month’s roller coaster ride, it’s difficult to know where mortgage rates are headed. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found the experts it surveyed were evenly split. Half expected rates to move lower, while the other half predicted they would hold steady in the coming week.

Mitch Ohlbaum, a loan officer with Macoy Capital Partners in Los Angeles, says rates are headed down.

“U.S. consumer confidence is sinking, the big European countries are seeing much slower growth and, in some cases, negative rates,” Ohlbaum said. “Lastly, we have the trade war with China and the thought of impeachment which will, for now, drag on rates for the near future.”

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Jim Sahnger, a mortgage planner with C2 Financial in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., says rates will remain about the same.

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“Over the next week, we will see a lot of economic data that should provide more insight to a potential recession,” Sahnger said. “Amidst all of this, rates should be basically unchanged until more is sorted out.”

Meanwhile, mortgage applications slumped. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, the market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — decreased 10.1 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index sank 15 percent, while the purchase index fell 3 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 54.9 percent of all applications.

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“Slightly higher mortgage rates slowed refinance and purchase applications last week, but the year-over-year gains remained robust,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and chief executive. “Refinances were 104 percent higher than a year ago, and purchases were up 9 percent.”

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