Mortgage Rates Probe New Lows

Eight out of 10 loan applications are for refis

By Inman News, Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mortgage rates plunged to new all-time lows this week as investors in bonds that fund most home loans reacted to news that the economy grew more slowly than expected during the last three months of 2011.

Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.87 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending Feb. 2, down from 3.98 percent last week and 4.81 percent a year ago. That’s a new all-time low in Freddie Mac survey records dating to 1971.

Rates on 15-year fixed-rate loans averaged 3.14 percent with an average 0.8 point, down from 3.24 percent last week and 4.08 percent a year ago. Rates on 15-year loans have never been lower since Freddie Mac began tracking them in 1991.

For five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans, rates averaged 2.8 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from 2.85 percent last week and 3.69 percent a year ago. That’s a new low in records dating to 2005.

Rates on one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.76 percent with an average 0.6 point, up slightly from last week’s record low of 2.74 percent. At this time last year, the one-year ARM averaged 3.26 percent.

“Most mortgage rates eased to all-time record lows this week as fourth-quarter growth in the economy fell short of market projections,” said Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft in a statement. “The gross domestic product rose 2.8 percent in the final three months of 2011, below the market consensus forecast of 3 percent, while consumer spending in December was flat. One bright spot, however, was that fixed residential investment increased for the third consecutive quarter and residential construction spending rebounded in December, rising 0.7 percent.”

Looking back a week, a separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed demand for purchase loans was down a seasonally adjusted 1.7 percent during the week ending Jan. 27 compared to the week before. Demand for purchase loans was down 4.3 percent from the same time a year ago.

Requests to refinance accounted for 80 percent of all mortgage applications, down from 81.3 percent the week before.

“The Federal Reserve surprised the market last week by indicating that short-term rates were likely to stay at their current low levels until the end of 2014,” said MBA chief economist Michael Fratantoni in a statement. “Longer-term Treasury rates dropped in response, and mortgage rates for the week were down slightly as a result.”