Stronger Economic Data Pushes Mortgage Rates Up

Demand for purchase loans jumped before July 4 holiday

By Inman News, Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mortgage rates look to be headed up again after a month of stability, with the latest weekly survey by Freddie Mac showing rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages notching up by nearly a tenth of a percent this week.

A separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association suggests that rates were already on the rise last week — hurting demand for refinancings, but not purchase loans, which saw a jump in applications in the week before the July 4 holiday.

Freddie Mac’s survey showed 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.6 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending July 7, up from 4.51 percent last week and 4.57 percent a year ago. Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages climbed to a 2011 high of 5.05 percent in February before falling to a low for the year of 4.49 percent during the first week of June.

Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.75 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from 3.69 percent last week but down from 4.07 percent a year ago. So far this year, rates on 15-year fixed-rate loans have ranged from a high of 4.29 percent in February to a low of 3.67 percent in June.

Rates on 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.3 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from 3.22 percent last week but down from 3.75 percent a year ago and a 2011 peak of 3.92 percent seen in February.

The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 3.01 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from 2.97 percent last week but down from 3.75 percent a year ago.

Looking back a week, the MBA’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey showed demand for refinancings fell 9.2 percent during the week ending July 1 compared to one week earlier.

But a seasonally adjusted index measuring demand for purchase loans showed applications up 4.8 percent from one week earlier and up 11.7 percent from a year ago.

“Stronger economic data towards the end of the week coupled with the end of the Fed’s second round of quantitative easing helped bring mortgage rates to their highest level in over a month,” said MBA chief economist Michael Fratantoni in a statement.

Mortgage rates depend on both demand for mortgage loans and the supply of investment dollars into mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that fund most loans. Rates often go up when investors regain confidence in stock markets, and MBS — seen as a safe haven in times of uncertainty — fall out of favor.

But predicting where mortgage rates are headed is tricky. When the government was winding down $1.25 trillion in MBS purchases in March 2010, many economists thought rates had nowhere to go but up.

At the time, MBA economists were predicting that rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans would average 6.2 percent in 2011 and 6.4 percent in 2012. But the European debt crisis and the slow pace of economic growth in the U.S. helped keep mortgage rates on a downward trajectory.

Rates on the traditional 30-year mortgage hit an all-time low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971 of 4.17 percent during the week ending Nov. 11, 2010. Rates on 15-year fixed-rate loans also hit an all-time low in records dating back to 1991 of 3.57 percent in November.

In their latest forecast, published June 15, MBA economists said they expect rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to average 4.9 percent during the third quarter and 5.2 percent during the final three months of the year. The MBA forecast foresees a continual, gradual rise in rates next year, to an average of 5.7 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012.