Mortgage rates receded for the third week in a row as financial markets reacted to a handful of economic news.
The consumer price index grew 2.1 percent, the quickest rate in five years, signaling that inflation is creeping up. The Federal Reserve released its “beige book,” a collection of anecdotal information on the economy, which indicated the economy was growing at a modest rate. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday she expects interest rates to rise “a few times per year” through 2019.
Long-term bonds went on a wild ride this week as yields plummeted on Tuesday before bouncing back Wednesday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, one of the more reliable indicators of where mortgage rates are headed, fell to 2.33 percent, its lowest level since late November. The next day, it rebounded to 2.42 percent, its biggest one-day gain since Dec. 9.
With the financial markets likely to remain uncertain for the near future, mortgage rates are expected to be just as unpredictable.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 4.09 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.12 percent a week ago and 3.81 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed rate has fallen 23 basis points in the past three weeks. (A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.)
The 15-year fixed-rate average dropped to 3.34 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.37 percent a week ago and 3.1 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average fell to 3.21 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.23 percent a week ago and 2.91 percent a year ago.
“After trending down for most of the week, the 10-year Treasury yield rose following the release of the CPI report,” Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac chief economist, said in a statement. “In contrast, the 30-year mortgage rate fell three basis points to 4.09 percent, the third straight week of declines.”
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that nearly half of the experts it surveyed said rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week, about a third said they will fall.
Meanwhile, mortgage applications were flat last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — ticked up 0.8 percent from last week as an increase in refinances was offset by a decrease in purchases. The refinance index rose 7 percent, while the purchase index dropped 5 percent.
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 53 percent of all applications.
“Mortgage activity was lackluster last week, with total volume up less than 1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis,” MBA’s chief economist, Michael Fratantoni, said. “Purchase activity fell below last year’s level by 1 percent, even as mortgage rates hit their lowest point in a month. The boost in refi volume was led by a jump in FHA refinance activity. Total refinance volume, up 7 percent for the week, is still down sharply from the end of last year, remaining 13 percent below the level from four weeks ago.”