Just when it seemed that 30-year fixed mortgage rates below 4 percent were a thing of the past, stock market volatility and weakening in the Asian and European financial markets drove rates to lows not seen in 14 months.
Worries about the global economy sent investors fleeing for the safety of Treasury bonds and interest rates on 10-year notes have plummeted, falling below 2 percent for the first time in more than a year. Because the mortgage market loosely follows Treasury yields, rates on fixed and hybrid mortgages have sunk as well.
“Bonds generally react well to small doses of bad news and we’ve had plenty lately between the market selloff, weak economic reports worldwide, and the ebola scare,” Craig Strent, CEO of Rockville-based Apex Home Loans, wrote in an e-mail.
“As stocks selloff, money has to go somewhere and bonds provide that safe haven. As bond purchases rise, the price goes up, pushing the yield down with rates following in that direction. This may be a very short term move and homeowners looking to cash in on lower rates through refinancing should act quickly as this may be a temporary dip, especially if the economy and optimism pick up as we approach the holiday season.”
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average sank to its lowest level since June 2013, falling to 3.97 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 4.12 percent a week ago and 4.28 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed-rate average had not been below 4 percent since it spiked 14 months ago after the Federal Reserve announced it was pulling back from its bond-buying program.
The 15-year fixed-rate average dropped to 3.18 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.3 percent a week ago and 3.33 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed rate had not been below 3.21 percent this year.
Hybrid adjustable rate mortgages also declined. The five-year ARM average tumbled to 2.92 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.05 percent a week ago and 3.07 percent a year ago. It was the first time the five-year ARM fell below 3 percent since mid-September.
The one-year ARM average fell to 2.38 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 2.42 percent a week ago.
“Mortgage rates were down sharply following the decline in the 10-year Treasury yield for the second straight week,” Frank E. Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a statement.
“Rates are at their lowest levels since June 2013 amidst continued investor skepticism regarding the precarious economic situation in Europe.”
Meanwhile, mortgage applications soared last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The market composite index, a measure of total loan application volume, increased 5.6 percent. The refinance index surged 11 percent, while the purchase index fell 1 percent.
The refinance share of mortgage activity rose to its highest level since February, accounting for 59 percent of all applications.
“Growing concerns about weak economic growth in Europe caused a flight to quality into U.S. assets last week, leading to sharp drops in interest rates,” Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, said in a statement. “Mortgage rates for most loan products fell to their lowest level since June 2013.”