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Mortgage rates today, March 20, 2018, plus lock recommendations

Gina PogolThe Mortgage Reports Contributor

What’s driving current mortgage rates?

Mortgage rates today are probably up because oil prices increased significantly. Oil prices are a big driver of mortgage and other rates because oil is a finite resource that almost everyone wants. Increases drive up the costs of many things 00, in fact, anything that must be manufactured with machines or transported.

With no financial reporting due today, we’re primarily working with White House news, rumors and tweets today. And the economic data listed below.

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Mortgage rates today

Program Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 yr Fixed 4.622 4.633 +0.04%
Conventional 15 yr Fixed 4.125 4.144 Unchanged
Conventional 5 yr ARM 4.063 4.524 +0.02%
30 year fixed FHA 4.5 5.507 +0.04%
15 year fixed FHA 3.75 4.701 +0.06%
5 year ARM FHA 3.875 4.959 Unchanged
30 year fixed VA 4.542 4.736 Unchanged
15 year fixed VA 3.75 4.063 Unchanged
5 year ARM VA 4.125 4.242 -0.09%

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 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 slightly by $1 to $1,311 an ounce. (That is slightly 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 rose $2 to $63 a barrel (quite bad for mortgage rates, because higher energy prices play a large role in creating inflation)
  • The yield on ten-year Treasuries increased 4 basis points (4/100ths of 1 percent) to 2.89 percent. This is quite bad for mortgage rates because they tend to follow Treasuries
  • CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index fell 4 points to a reading of 14 (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

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 OrdersNew Home Sales

Rate lock recommendation

Today’s mortgage rates are up but still stable. 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.

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 (Aug 21st, 2018)