The 15-year fixed-rate average also moved higher, to 3.09 percent with an average 0.7 point. It was 3.07 percent a week ago and 3.88 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average rose to 3.39 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 3.3 percent a week ago and 3.87 percent a year ago.
“Significant economic data releases and major geopolitical headlines failed to substantially alter investor behavior, leaving mortgage rates to move only within a narrow range,” said Matthew Speakman, a Zillow economist. “December’s jobs and inflation data both fell short of industry expectations.”
Employers added 145,000 workers in December, leaving the unemployment rate at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. Wages grew at 2.9 percent in 2019, down from an average of 3.3 percent in 2018. Consumer prices were slightly higher in December, with the consumer price index rising 0.2 percent last month. The CPI grew 2.3 percent for 2019, its largest increase since 2011.
More than any other event or economic indicator, the trade dispute has been fueling uncertainty in the financial markets, which in turn has led to many of the wild swings in mortgage rates over the past several months. On Wednesday, following the signing of phase one of the U.S.-China trade agreement, the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 29,000 for the first time.
Despite the stock rally, long-term bond yields fell. The 10-year Treasury yield slipped to 1.79 percent. Yields usually move higher when the stock market rises, because investors shift money from bonds to stocks, causing bond prices to fall and yields to rise. But investors appear wary until they know more about the deal.
“Wednesday’s signing of an initial trade deal between China and the U.S. — a major development in what has been the most impactful story in bond markets over the past several months — prompted only a small response from investors that are otherwise cautiously digesting the news,” Speakman said. “The fact that many tariffs will remain in place illustrates the distance that still remains between the two nations and that will need to be covered in order to come to an enduring agreement.”
The trade agreement came too late in the week to be factored into Freddie Mac’s survey. The federally chartered mortgage investor aggregates rates weekly from 125 lenders from across the country to determine national average mortgage rates.
Meanwhile, mortgage applications soared coming out of the holidays. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, the market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — increased 30.2 percent last week. The refinance index jumped 43 percent, while the purchase index climbed 16 percent. Purchase activity rose to its highest level since October 2009.
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 62.9 percent of applications.
“The recent decline in mortgage rates led to a surge in applications in the first full week of 2020,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and chief executive. “The purchase index reading hit its highest level in over a decade … and mortgage lenders across the country are reporting that demand is strong. Low rates and steady job creation are encouraging borrowers to act.”
The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) this week that showed credit availability decreased in December. The MCAI fell 3.5 percent to 182.2 last month. A decline in the MCAI indicates lending standards are tightening, while an increase signals they are loosening.
“Credit availability fell in December after three months of expansion, driven by drops in both conventional and government supply,” Joel Kan, an MBA economist, said in a statement. “Perhaps most noteworthy was a 6 percent drop in government credit supply because of changes to the Veterans Administration (VA) loan program, which eliminated loan limits for certain borrowers as of Jan 1, 2020. This likely prompted many investors to remove VA programs in high-cost counties from their offerings. There was also a reduction in streamline refinance programs, as slightly higher rates slowed the refinance market at the end of 2019.”
More Real Estate: