Mortgage Rates Halt Six-Week Slide

Demand for purchase loans highest in 6 months

By Inman News, Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mortgage rates finally found a bottom this week, following six consecutive weeks of declines, but remained near record lows as worries about the European debt crisis continue to make bonds that fund most mortgages look like a safe bet to investors.

Rates on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.71 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending June 14, up from 3.67 percent last week but down from 4.5 percent a year ago, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Last week’s rate for 30-year loans was an all-time low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971.

For 15-year fixed-rate loans, rates averaged 2.98 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from 2.94 percent last week but down from 3.67 percent a year ago. Last week’s rate for 15-year loans was a low in records dating to 1991.

Rates on the five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.8 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 2.84 percent last week and 3.27 percent a year ago. Rates on five-year ARMs hit 2.78 percent during the week ending April 19, an all-time low in records dating to 2005.

For one-year Treasury-indexed ARMs, rates averaged 2.78 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from 2.79 percent last week and 2.97 percent a year ago. Rates on one-year ARMs hit an all-time low in records dating to 1984 of 2.72 percent during the week ending March 1.

A separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed demand for purchase loans for the week ending June 8 was up a seasonally adjusted 13 percent from the week before, and up 4 percent from a year ago.

Although requests to refinance accounted for eight out of 10 mortgage applications, demand for purchase loans was at the highest level in more than six months, the MBA said.

Mortgage rates are near historic lows in part because global investors see mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae as a safe haven from turmoil in financial markets.

Fears that heavily indebted countries like Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain will default on those debts, disrupting eurozone trade and plunging the global economy into another recession, continue unabated this week.

Moody’s Investor Service downgraded Spain’s sovereign credit rating Wednesday, and Greek banks have seen a run on deposits as customers prepare for the possibility that parties opposed to austerity measures will prevail in elections scheduled for Sunday, Reuters reports.

The impact a eurozone meltdown would have on the U.S. economy is unclear. The 17-nation eurozone was America’s largest trading partner in 2011, Yahoo Finance economics editor Daniel Gross notes. But Canada, Mexico and Latin America, Asia and Africa have become increasingly important trading partners in recent years.

Trade isn’t the only issue at stake, Gross said, “There are several other channels of contagion.”

Central banks around the globe are making plans to protect their currencies and economies from the impacts of an exodus of capital from eurozone countries, Reuters reports. Demand for U.S. dollars strengthens the currency’s value, which can hurt exports by making U.S.-made goods more expensive to foreign buyers.