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Mortgage rates today, February 16, plus lock recommendations

Gina PogolThe Mortgage Reports Contributor

What’s driving current mortgage rates?

Both releases this morning indicate rising mortgage rates. While we have lower rates now, that could change quickly, and if you plan to lock today, you should probably do it quickly.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, expected to come in at 95.3, came in at 99.9. That’s about as high as it gets, and that may cause mortgage price increases this morning. Currently, rates are down compared to yesterday.

The Commerce Department reported Housing Starts up 9.7 percent to an annual rate of 1.326 million in January, blowing away expectations of a 3.5 percent increase to an annual rate of 1.234 million. That indicates economic strength and higher mortgage rates in the future.

Verify your new rate (Sep 24th, 2018)

Mortgage rates today

Current mortgage rates are lower than yesterday in the wake of economic data that all pointed to falling rates. Good to see them backing off after rising every day this week.

Program Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 yr Fixed 4.58 4.591 -0.04%
Conventional 15 yr Fixed 4.083 4.102 Unchanged
Conventional 5 yr ARM 4.063 4.348 Unchanged
30 year fixed FHA 4.372 5.378 -0.09%
15 year fixed FHA 3.688 4.638 -0.06%
5 year ARM FHA 3.875 4.867 -0.05%
30 year fixed VA 4.5 4.694 -0.04%
15 year fixed VA 3.75 4.063 -0.06%
5 year ARM VA 4.25 4.191 Unchanged

Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.

Financial data that affect today’s mortgage rates

Today’s early data are favorable for mortgage rates.

  • Major stock indexes opened fairly flat this morning (neutral for rates, because rising stocks typically take interest rates with them — making it more expensive to borrow )
  • Gold prices rose $1 an ounce (up for the 5th consecutive day) to $1,356. (That is usually good for mortgage rates. In general, it’s better for rates when gold rises, and worse when gold falls. Gold tends to rise when investors worry about the economy. And worried investors tend to push rates lower.)
  • Oil rose $1 barrel to $61 (bad for mortgage rates, because higher energy prices play a large role in creating inflation)
  • The yield on ten-year Treasuries reversed yesterday’s increase, dropping 4 basis points (4/100th of one percent) to 2.87 percent. This is good for mortgage rates because they tend to follow Treasuries.
  • CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index rose 4 points to a reading of 15 (out of a possible 100). That’s considered the “extreme fear” range.  Normally, spooked investors are good for interest rates — but only if the reason they are afraid is not potential inflation. “Fearful” investors generally push rates down as they leave the stock market and move into bonds, while “greedy” investors do the opposite. That causes rates to rise.

Next week

Next week will be shortened because of Presidents Day, and extremely light on economic reporting.

  • Wednesday: Existing Home Sales from the National Association of Realtors
  • Thursday: Weekly Unemployment Claims

In the absence of formal financial releases, investors and borrowers will have to take their cues from financial data (like that listed above), global political and economic news, and perhaps the occasional Twitter storm from the White House.

Rate lock recommendation

In general, pricing for a 30-day lock is the standard most lenders will (should) quote you. The 15-day option should get you a discount, and locks over 30 days usually cost more.

In a rising rate environment, the decision to lock or float becomes complicated. Obviously, if you know rates are rising, you want to lock in as soon as possible. However, the longer you lock, the higher your upfront costs. If you are weeks away from closing on your mortgage, that’s something to consider. On the flip side, if a higher rate would wipe out your mortgage approval, you’ll probably want to lock in even if it costs more.

If you’re still floating, stay in close contact with your lender, and keep an eye on markets.

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 45 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 60 days

Video: More about mortgage rates

What causes rates to rise and fall?

Mortgage interest rates depend on a great deal on the expectations of investors. Good economic news tends to be bad for interest rates because an active economy raises concerns about inflation. Inflation causes fixed-income investments like bonds to lose value, and that causes their yields (another way of saying interest rates) to increase. This illustration from Mortgage News Daily shows how rising stocks tend to pull interest rates with them.

mortgage rates today, current mortgage rates

For example, suppose that two years ago, you bought a $1,000 bond paying five percent interest ($50) each year. (This is called its “coupon rate.”) That’s a pretty good rate today, so lots of investors want to buy it from you. You sell your $1,000 bond for $1,200.

When rates fall

The buyer gets the same $50 a year in interest that you were getting. However, because he paid more for the bond, his interest rate is now five percent.

  • Your interest rate: $50 annual interest / $1,000 = 5.0%
  • Your buyer’s interest rate: $50 annual interest / $1,200 = 4.2%

The buyer gets an interest rate, or yield, of only 4.2 percent. And that’s why, when demand for bonds increases and bond prices go up, interest rates go down.

When rates rise

However, when the economy heats up, the potential for inflation makes bonds less appealing. With fewer people wanting to buy bonds, their prices decrease, and then interest rates go up.

Imagine that you have your $1,000 bond, but you can’t sell it for $1,000 because unemployment has dropped and stock prices are soaring. You end up getting $700. The buyer gets the same $50 a year in interest, but the yield looks like this:

  • $50 annual interest / $700 = 7.1%

The buyer’s interest rate is now slightly more than seven percent. Interest rates and yields are not mysterious. You calculate them with simple math.

Verify your new rate (Sep 24th, 2018)