What’s driving current mortgage rates?
Mortgage rates today are little changed from yesterday. It looks like we’re in a holding pattern, but I expect a reprice for worse this morning. Today brings some important reports: Housing Starts, Consumer Sentiment, and Industrial Production.
Housing Starts in February declined to an annual rate of 1.24 million, while analysts had expected 1.29 million. Permits to build new houses, meanwhile, slipped 5.7% to 1.3 million. This could take some pressure off of mortgage rates.
Consumer Sentiment, which measures how consumers feel about their finances and predicts future economic activity, soared 2.5 points to a reading of 102 for March. That’s nice for the economy but bad for mortgage rates because more activity also means inflation.
Finally, Industrial Production also surged — this time by 1.1 percent (analysts predicted a .5 percent increase, so this is big news), and capacity utilization at US factories is at nearly 80 percent — both numbers indicate upward pressure on prices and this is not good for mortgage rates. However, the impending trade war does take the shine off of these figures a bit.Verify your new rate (Mar 23rd, 2019)
Mortgage rates today
|Conventional 30 yr Fixed||4.58||4.591||Unchanged|
|Conventional 15 yr Fixed||4.125||4.144||Unchanged|
|Conventional 5 yr ARM||4.063||4.524||Unchanged|
|30 year fixed FHA||4.417||5.423||Unchanged|
|15 year fixed FHA||3.625||4.575||Unchanged|
|5 year ARM FHA||3.875||4.959||Unchanged|
|30 year fixed VA||4.5||4.694||Unchanged|
|15 year fixed VA||3.75||4.063||Unchanged|
|5 year ARM VA||4.125||4.242||Unchanged|
Financial data that affect today’s mortgage rates
Today’s early data mostly point to higher rates.
- Major stock indexes are all up (bad for rates, because rising stocks typically take interest rates with them — making it more expensive to borrow )
- Gold prices fell for the third straight day — this time by $8 to $1,311 an ounce. (That is bad 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 remained at $61 a barrel (neutral for mortgage rates, because higher energy prices play a large role in creating inflation)
- The yield on ten-year Treasuries rose 3 basis points (1/100th of 1 percent) to 2.85 percent. This is bad for mortgage rates because they tend to follow Treasuries
- CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index fell 10 points to a reading of 20 (out of a possible 100). That’s considered the “extreme 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 is pretty light on financial reporting.
- Monday: Nothing
- Tuesday: Nothing
- Wednesday: Existing Home Sales
- Thursday: Weekly Unemployment, Leading Economic Indicators
- Friday: Durable Goods Orders, New Home Sales
Rate lock recommendation
Today’s mortgage rates are relatively flat. 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.
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 (Mar 23rd, 2019)