Mortgage rates were quiet ahead of news Wednesday that the Federal Reserve was leaving its Federal Funds Rate unchanged.
The announcement came too late in the week to be factored into the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.’s mortgage-rate survey. The government-sponsored mortgage-backer aggregates rates from 125 lenders across the country to come up with a national average mortgage rate each week.
Although the central bank held fast this time around, it signaled that it was leaning toward raising its benchmark rate before the end of the year, most likely in December. It also revised its economic outlook. The Fed now expects rates to be about 1.1 percent by the end of 2017, down from June’s forecast of 1.6 percent. Those moves could lead to lower long-term bond yields, which would favor lower mortgage rates.
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage-rate-trend index, found that more than half of the experts it surveyed say they think rates will fall in the coming week. Greg McBride, senior vice president and chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, is one who is predicting rates will go down. “The Fed didn’t raise rates, and despite sending a strong signal that a rate hike is coming, they don’t expect core inflation to hit 2 percent until 2018,” McBride said. “All this is good news for long-term bonds, and by extension, mortgage rates.”
Mortgage rates moved slightly lower this week, according to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.
The 30-year fixed-rate average slid to 3.48 percent with an average 0.6 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 3.5 percent a week ago and 3.86 percent a year ago. After moving above 3.5 percent for the first time since June 23 last week, the 30-year fixed rate retreated below that mark this week.
The 15-year fixed-rate average inched down to 2.76 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 2.77 percent a week ago and 3.08 percent a year ago.
The five-year adjustable rate average dropped to 2.8 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 2.82 percent a week ago and 2.91 percent a year ago.
“The 10-year Treasury yield declined after last week’s post-Brexit high in anticipation of the Fed’s September policy meeting,” Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac chief economist, said in a statement. “The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage followed Treasury yields, falling 2 basis points and settling at 3.48 percent. Despite the decrease in rates, the Refinance Index plunged 8 percent to its lowest level since June.”
In its monthly outlook released earlier this week, Freddie Mac predicted that this year will be the best year in home sales since 2006. It expects mortgage rates to remain low with the 30-year fixed rate, the most popular mortgage product, on pace to average 3.6 percent this year. That would be the lowest annual average in 40 years, surpassing the previous low of 3.66 percent set in 2012.
“The housing market remains a bright spot for the U.S. economy, with solid job gains and low mortgage interest rates sustaining the economy’s momentum in September,” Becketti said in a statement. “In most markets, low mortgage rates have more than offset the rise in house prices, preserving homebuyer affordability for the typical household. Homeowners are also taking advantage of low rates and house price appreciation that is increasing their home equity. The share of cash-out refinances grew to 41 percent in the second quarter of 2016, compared to 38 percent in the first quarter and 15 to 20 percent during the housing crisis.”
Meanwhile, mortgage applications slumped this week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The market composite index — a measure of total loan-application volume — sank 7.3 percent from the previous week. The refinance index dropped 8 percent, while the purchase index fell 7 percent.
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 63.1 percent of all applications.
“Last week, mortgage rates increased to their highest level since June,” said David Stevens, MBA’s president and chief executive. “The increase was in part spurred by comments made by some Fed officials ahead of Wednesday’s meeting signaling that the Federal Reserve is closer to raising rates. Although on Wednesday the Federal Reserve again decided not to raise rates, Chair Yellen explicitly stated that she expects a rate hike this year. The fact that three FOMC members dissented is definitely a sign that the Fed is moving towards that anticipated rate increase. MBA’s economists project that hike will occur at the December meeting, and that the 30-year fixed interested rate for a conventional loan will end up at about 3.8 percent at the end of 2016. We continue to expect refinance activity will fall off through the remainder of 2016 and into 2017, but that purchase activity will be robust, backed by the strength of the job market.”