After retreating the past two weeks, mortgage rates resumed their ascent.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average jumped to its second-highest level this year, rising to 4.62 percent with an average 0.4 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.54 percent a week ago and 3.91 percent a year ago.
The 15-year fixed-rate average climbed to 4.07 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 4.01 percent a week ago and 3.18 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average rose to 3.83 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 3.74 percent a week ago and 3.15 percent a year ago.
“Mortgage rates drifted upward last week returning back to where they stood in mid-May before political turmoil in Italy and Spain and U.S.-China trade tensions pushed rates temporarily lower,” said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “A steady stream of healthy economic data in the U.S. combined with signals from central banks around the world pointing toward slightly tighter monetary policy on a global scale reversed the recent slide in rates. [The rate hike] from the Federal Reserve was widely anticipated and largely priced into markets already, but markets are still digesting the finer points around the Fed’s forecasts and alternative policy levers, and comments from Chairman Powell’s press conference this afternoon.”
The Federal Reserve increased its benchmark rate Wednesday. Because the hike — the second this year — had been expected, it is unlikely to cause an immediate increase in mortgage rates. It is important to remember the central bank doesn’t set mortgage rates, but its decisions influence them.
“There is often a misconception that changes in the Fed Funds rate affect mortgage rates,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, LendingTree chief economist. “This is not the case. . . . Although the Fed Funds rate and mortgage rates are often influenced by the same factors, that is not consistently the case and they are rarely impacted to the same extent.”
The Federal Reserve’s decision came too late in the week to be factored into Freddie Mac’s survey. The government-backed mortgage-backer aggregates current rates weekly from 125 lenders from across the country to come up with national average mortgage rates.
The Fed’s confidence in the U.S. economy is helping drive bond yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury nudged closer to 3 percent this week, rising to 2.98 percent on Wednesday. The movement of long-term bonds — more so than actions by the Federal Reserve — are a better predictor of where rates are headed. When yields go up, home-loan rates also tend to rise.
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found nearly half of the experts it surveyed say rates will move higher in the coming week. Derek Egeberg, branch manager at Academy Mortgage, is one who expects rates to increase.
“The market has remained relatively stable, but do look for rates to rise throughout the summer and continue higher for the rest of 2018,” Egeberg said.
Meanwhile, mortgage applications declined last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume – decreased 1.5 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 35.6 percent of all applications.
“Overall mortgage application activity declined as rates rose, but government applications increased, driven largely by increases in FHA applications, reflecting stronger demand by first-time home buyers,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist.
The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) this week that showed credit availability increased in May. The MCAI rose 1.5 percent to 180.6 last month. An increase in the MCAI indicates that lending standards are loosening, while a decline signals they are tightening.
“The expansion of offerings across all loan types drove credit availability to its highest level in three months,” Kan said. “In particular, the conventional index and jumbo index both rose to their highest levels since March 2011. This was mainly caused by increased investor interest in jumbo loans and high balance conforming loans.”
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