The headquarters of mortgage lender Freddie Mac is seen in Mclean, Virginia, near Washington, in this September 8, 2008 file photo. Wall Street traders may be manipulating a key derivatives market and front running Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, hurting the US-owned mortgage giants in the process, according to an FBI intelligence bulletin reviewed by Reuters. REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS LOGO) (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Mortgage rates have settled in, undeterred by conflicting economic data, global political and economic concerns, and recent Federal Reserve signals.

According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average ticked up to 4.42 percent with an average 0.4 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.40 percent a week ago and 4.08 percent a year ago.

The 15-year fixed-rate average remained the same as it was a week ago, holding steady at 3.87 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.34 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable-rate average slipped to 3.61 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 3.62 percent a week ago and 3.18 percent a year ago.


After steadily rising the first part of the year, the 30-year fixed rate has been stuck in a narrow band between 4.40 percent and 4.46 percent the past two months. The 15-year fixed and five-year ARM have also barely budged. Experts have been surprised by their stubbornness.

“Mortgage rates were flat over the past seven days despite escalating trade tensions between the United States and China, a mixed March employment report, and comments from several [Federal Open Market Committee] members hinting at a slower path of interest rate hikes,” said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “Given the scale of geopolitical risk and equity market volatility, it is surprising that mortgage rates were so steady, and suggests that long-term lending markets are — at least for the moment — writing off the headlines as transitory. Markets are keeping an eye on inflation and federal spending data this week, as well as several speeches by key FOMC officials early next week. Beyond the standard economic calendar, rates could rise if trade tensions escalate or if military action in the Middle East looks likely. Leadership changes in Congress could also point to slightly tighter fiscal policy which would ease recent upward pressure on rates.”

Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that an overwhelming majority of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week. Michael Becker, branch manager at Sierra Pacific Mortgage, is one who expects rates to hold steady.

“Treasury yields and mortgage rates seem to be running into resistance, as they are at the lower end of the range they have been in for the last couple months,” Becker said. “It’s going to take some kind of shock, like heightened concerns in Syria or a trade war escalation, for them to rally or drop from their current levels. But there is also some concern that economic momentum is slowing down a bit, so I don’t see rates rising either. I suspect that rates will be level in the coming week.”

Meanwhile, mortgage applications declined again last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — decreased 1.9 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index fell 2 percent, while the purchase index also dropped 2 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 38.4 percent of all applications.

“Application volume was weak coming out of the Easter holiday, particularly for conventional purchase volume, which fell below last year’s level at this time,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA chief economist. “With mortgage rates little changed, the refinance share fell again to its lowest level in a decade.”

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