Mortgage rates barely budged this week, essentially remaining flat for the third week in a row.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 4.17 percent with an average 0.4 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.19 percent a week ago and 3.65 percent a year ago.
The 15-year fixed-rate average dropped to 3.39 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.41 percent a week ago and 2.95 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 2.83 percent a year ago.
“Rates are at about the same level at which they started the year and have stayed within a two-basis-point range over the past three weeks,” Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac chief economist, said in a statement. “Mixed economic releases such as Friday’s jobs report and uncertainty about the Administration’s fiscal policies have contributed to the holding pattern in rates.”
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found the experts it surveyed were split on where rates were headed. Forty-four percent said they would head down, another 44 percent said they would remain relatively unchanged and the remainder said they would rise.
Shashank Shekhar, chief executive of Arcus Lending, is one who thinks rates will fall slightly in the coming week.
“The stock market is increasingly looking soft,” he said. “After the initial enthusiasm, investors are rethinking many of the elements that set off a very optimistic reaction to Trump’s election, realizing that those positives may not take effect this year. The softness in the stock market, coupled with falling oil prices, should help mortgage-backed securities, resulting in lower mortgage rates for consumers this week. The drop, however, will be minor.”
Meanwhile, mortgage applications increased last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume – rose 2.3 percent from last week. The refinance index and purchase index both grew 2 percent.
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 47.9 percent of all applications, its lowest level since June 2009.
“Mortgage rates continued to show volatility from week to week,” said MBA economist Joel Kan. “Applications for home purchase mortgages increased last week and were 3.6 percent higher than the same week a year ago, potentially an early sign that the spring housing market pick up is around the corner.”
The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index this week that showed lending standards loosened in January. The MCAI increased 1.1 percent, to 177.1, last month. A decline in the MCAI indicates lending standards are tightening, while an increase indicates loosening credit.
“Mortgage credit availability increased for the fifth consecutive month in January, driven by increased availability of jumbo loan programs,” said Lynn Fisher, MBA’s vice president of research and economics. “We saw a particular increase in agency jumbo programs that focus on loans in high-cost areas that exceed the baseline conforming loan limit of $424,000 but which are still eligible for purchase by the GSEs. While the change in GSE loan limits may have had an indirect impact on the jumbo MCAI, there were other factors at play as several investors rolled out new jumbo loan programs in January.”