Fixed mortgage rates’ upward climb stalled this week as weak housing data put a damper on investors’ enthusiasm.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average remained at 3.83 percent, same as it was a week ago, with an average 0.6 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 3.42 percent a year ago.
The 15-year fixed-rate average was also flat, holding steady at 3.13 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 2.72 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average rose to 3.20 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.17 percent a week ago and 2.81 percent a year ago.
Recently released data showed the housing market slowed down in August — pending sales of homes fell 2.6 percent and existing sales of homes fell 1.7 percent. Both measures have declined in four of the past five months. New home sales dropped 1.7 percent.
Meanwhile, home prices continue to rise. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index gained 5.9 percent in July as constrained supply has put upward pressure on prices.
In a speech earlier this week, Federal Reserve Chair Janet L. Yellen spoke of the danger of the central bank “moving too gradually” when raising interest rates. Because of her remarks and despite this year’s low inflation, investors continue to anticipate a rake hike in December.
Rising home prices and mortgage rates are likely to cause a bigger slowdown in the housing market.
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found the experts it surveyed have differing opinions on where home loan rates are headed. A majority say rates will fall, a third say they will rise and a quarter say they will remain relatively stable in the coming week.
Brett Sinnott, vice president of capital markets at CMG Financial, is one who expects rates will level off in the coming week.
“Although mortgage rates felt a little increase after last week’s Fed meeting, they have remained relatively flat since that time,” Sinnott said. “The Fed did keep a final rate increase on the table for 2017 and stated a target of at least three rate hikes for 2018. August saw the housing market take a small tumble as all three sales figures (pending, new and existing) fell, both month-over-month and year-over-year. Most are pointing to an issue of supply but increasing home prices have also put a wrench in mortgage transactions.”
Mortgage applications were also flat last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — decreased 0.5 percent. The refinance index fell 4 percent, while the purchase index increased 3 percent.
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 50.8 percent of all applications.
“Mortgage rates increased to their highest levels in almost a month following a relatively hawkish Fed statement last week, driving the decline in refinance activity,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist. “The [Federal Reserve] announced the start of its plan to reduce the size of its balance sheet and indicated plans to increase short-term rates one more time this year. Purchase applications increased slightly last week, but were still weighed down by tight inventories of homes for sale and lingering effects from the hurricanes.”