What’s driving current mortgage rates?
Mortgage rates today are mostly unchanged, but 30-year fixed conventional loans did get a nice drop. Retail sales for February, expected to increase .4 percent, disappointed mightily by coming in with a .1 percent drop instead. That’s not great for the US economy, but it is a good thing for anyone floating an interest rate. Economic slowing alleviates worries about inflation.
On the other hand, the Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures economic growth at the factory level, came in slightly higher than expected — a .2 percent gain when analysts predicted .1 percent. That is slightly bad for rates, but the number is still quite low and does not feed inflationary concerns.Verify your new rate (Dec 9th, 2018)
Mortgage rates today
|Conventional 30 yr Fixed||4.542||4.553||-0.08%|
|Conventional 15 yr Fixed||4.125||4.144||Unchanged|
|Conventional 5 yr ARM||4.063||4.524||+0.02%|
|30 year fixed FHA||4.458||5.465||Unchanged|
|15 year fixed FHA||3.688||4.638||Unchanged|
|5 year ARM FHA||3.875||4.959||-0.02%|
|30 year fixed VA||4.497||4.691||Unchanged|
|15 year fixed VA||3.75||4.063||Unchanged|
|5 year ARM VA||4.25||4.288||+0.03%|
Financial data that affect today’s mortgage rates
Today’s early data are mixed but mostly point to lower rates.
- Major stock indexes are mixed but flat, (neutral for rates, because rising stocks typically take interest rates with them — making it more expensive to borrow )
- Gold prices rose $3 to $1,325 an ounce. (That is 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 prices fell $1 to $61 a barrel (good for mortgage rates, because higher energy prices play a large role in creating inflation)
- The yield on ten-year Treasuries plunged by 4 basis points (4/100th of 1 percent) to 2.83 percent. This is very good for mortgage rates because they tend to follow Treasuries
- CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index dropped 11 points, reversing a trend, to a reading of 35 (out of a possible 100). That’s considered the “fear” range. Moving into a more fearful state is usually good for rates. “Fearful” investors generally push bond prices up (and interest rates down) as they leave the stock market and move into bonds, while “greedy” investors do the opposite.
This week brings several moderately important reports and a couple of important indicators.
- Monday: nothing
- Tuesday: Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation and is one of the most important reports in the month.
- Wednesday: Retail Sales, which tracks economic activity at the consumer level, and the Producer Price Index (PPI) which shows economic strength at the wholesale level.
- Thursday: Weekly Unemployment Claims come out as usual. And we’ll get the Homebuilders’ Index.
- Friday: This important day brings Housing Starts, Consumer Sentiment, and Industrial Production to wrap up the week.
Rate lock recommendation
Today’s mortgage rates are bucking the overall trend toward higher mortgage rates. If you’re nearing a lock cut-off point, for example, you’re 16 days from closing and could get 15-day pricing by waiting one more day, I recommend waiting. There is nothing to indicate rates will increase by tomorrow.
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.
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 (Dec 9th, 2018)