Freddie Mac, a federally chartered mortgage investor, aggregates rates from about 80 lenders nationwide to come up with weekly national average mortgage rates. It uses rates for high-quality borrowers with strong credit scores and large down payments. Because of the criteria, these rates are not available to every borrower.
Because the survey is based on home purchase mortgages, rates for refinances may be higher. The price adjustment for refinance transactions that took effect in December is adding to the cost. The adjustment, which applies to all Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac refinances, is 0.5 percent of the loan amount. That works out to $1,500 on a $300,000 loan.
The 15-year fixed-rate average rose to 2.34 percent with an average 0.6 point. It was 2.21 percent a week ago and 2.95 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable-rate average spiked to 2.99 percent with an average 0.1 point. It was 2.77 percent a week ago and 3.20 percent a year ago.
“Mortgage rates pushed higher this week, all but officially making the days of record-low rates a thing of the past,” said Matthew Speakman, a Zillow economist. “After months of holding firm, even as Treasury yields steadily climbed, mortgage rates have finally relented in the past couple weeks, keeping pace with yields that have turned their steady jog upward into an all-out sprint.”
It once was that long-term bond yields were the most reliable predictor of where mortgage rates were headed. That has been less so lately. However, now that there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel in the coronavirus pandemic, they are once again turning into a reliable indicator.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.42 percent during the day on Wednesday — its highest level in a year — before closing out the day at 1.38 percent. It started the month at 1.09 percent, steadily rising over the past few weeks in part because investors are expecting inflation to ramp up later this year when the economy reopens, pent-up consumer demand is unleashed and Washington approves a stimulus plan.
“Honestly, mortgage rates were artificially low, under 3 percent, because covid-19 isn’t a normal economic event,” said Logan Mohtashami, a housing analyst at HousingWire. “Yields have risen from 0.52 percent last August to [1.38] percent [Wednesday]. Some economic data warrant the 10-year over 2.42 percent, but covid-19 still has its grip on us for now. A stock market correction is the one thing that can rally bonds in a meaningful way outside bonds being short-term oversold.”
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that more than two-thirds of the experts it surveyed predicted that rates would go up in the coming week.
“The 10-year … has been climbing for the last two weeks,” said Mitch Ohlbaum, a mortgage banker at Macoy Capital Partners in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Although the increase is small as a percentage, it is more of a sign of what the market is thinking. It is usually either fear of future inflation or fear of uncertainty. Right now, the market is experiencing both. The end of [the first quarter] will be important as it will hopefully give everyone some insight as to the trend. There should not be any major swings in rates for the next weeks.”
Meanwhile, rising rates and severe weather caused mortgage applications to decline again last week. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, the market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — decreased 11.4 percent from a week earlier. The purchase index fell 8 percent from the previous week. The refinance index sank 11 percent but was 50 percent higher than a year ago. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 68.5 percent of applications.
“A spike in mortgage rates to the highest level since last September, as well as disruptions from extreme weather in Texas, weakened mortgage demand last week,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and chief executive. “The severe weather and power outages affected many households and lenders in Texas, causing a drop of more than 40 percent in both purchase and refinance applications in the state. Despite the overall decline in activity, refinances and purchase applications both continued to outpace year-ago levels. The housing market is off to a very strong start this year, but low inventory is holding back some prospective buyers.”
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