The 15-year fixed-rate average fell to 3.16 percent with an average 0.7 point. It was 3.19 percent a week ago and 3.99 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average slid to 3.46 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 3.45 percent a week ago and 3.98 percent a year ago.
“The combination of improved economic data and market sentiment has led to stability in mortgage rates, which have hovered around 3.7 percent for nearly the last two months,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement. “The stability is welcome news after the interest rate turbulence of the last year, which caused a slowdown in the housing market and other interest rate sensitive sectors. The low mortgage rate environment combined with the red-hot labor market is setting the stage for a continued rise in home sales and home prices.”
Although mortgage rates have steadily risen since falling below 3.5 percent in September, they remain well below where they started the millennium. At the beginning of 2000, the 30-year fixed-rate average was 8.15 percent, more than double what it is today. Most economists are predicting rates to remain below 4 percent in the coming year.
“Our forecast is that the 10-year Treasury rate will increase gradually to around 1.9 percent in 2020, and the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate will rise slightly to average 3.7 percent, and eventually reaching 4 percent by 2022,” wrote Mike Fratantoni and Joel Kan, Mortgage Bankers Association economists, in their December forecast. “However, even though the forecast is for a gradual increase in rates over the next two years, we expect that there will be substantial market volatility due to ongoing trade threats and other geopolitical uncertainties.”
The yield on the 10-year Treasury, the most closely watched indicator of where mortgage rates are headed, has been creeping up slowly over the past month. Except for a brief dip on Friday, the yield on the 10-year Treasury has been above 1.9 percent since mid-December. It ended the year at 1.92 percent.
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found the experts it surveyed evenly split on where rates are headed. Half predict rates will rise in the coming week, while the other half expect them to remain the same.
Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, is one who says mortgage rates will move higher.
“Just a slight uptick, with mortgage rates remaining in the narrow and well-established range of the past couple months,” McBride said.
On the other hand, Michael Becker, branch manager at Sierra Pacific Mortgage in Lutherville, Md., says they will hold steady.
“Except for a brief spike in Treasury yields on Monday, caused by a European bond sell-off, both mortgage rates and Treasury yields have been relatively stable over the last week,” Becker said. “With many traders off until after the start of the new year, I expect yields to trade in a tight range over the next week. So, mortgage rates will be flat over the coming week.”
Because of the holidays, the Mortgage Bankers Association did not report mortgage application volume this week.
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