Mortgage rates today, May 9 2018, plus lock recommendations

Gina Pogol
The Mortgage Reports editor

What’s driving current mortgage rates?

Mortgage rates today are mostly higher. The big bomb was dropped last night when the Administration announced that the US is pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement, despite the attempts of other countries to prevent this.

Oil jumped to $71 a barrel, never good because it increases the price of everything, which will push prices and rates higher. Hopefully it won’t also kill off the progress we’ve made in job creation. (Higher unemployment and prices together is called stagflation, and it’s a nightmare.)

We did get the  Producer Price Index (PPI) for April, which tracks inflationary pressure at the manufacturing / wholesale level of the economy. Analysts expected a .3 percent increase and got just .1. Normally good for rates but probably irrelevant today.

Rates Below Are Averages. Get Your Personalized Rates Here. (Feb 20th, 2019)
Program Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 yr Fixed 4.792 4.803 +0.04%
Conventional 15 yr Fixed 4.333 4.352 +0.04%
Conventional 5 yr ARM 4.313 4.766 +0.02%
30 year fixed FHA 4.5 5.507 -0.04%
15 year fixed FHA 3.75 4.701 Unchanged
5 year ARM FHA 3.875 5.087 Unchanged
30 year fixed VA 4.625 4.82 -0.04%
15 year fixed VA 3.875 4.189 Unchanged
5 year ARM VA 4.0 4.331 Unchanged

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

Financial data affecting today’s mortgage rates

The main indicator that concerns me about future rates is oil price increases. Prices were below $50 a barrel about six months ago; now they’re hitting $70. That should concern anyone who doesn’t own an oil company.

“The higher price of oil will strain the commercial accounts of large oil importers in the emerging markets while helping producers,” said Thierry Wizman, global interest rates and currencies strategist at Macquarie Group in a CNBC interview.  “It will spur inflation almost everywhere, and thus perhaps lift inflation breakevens. In the U.S., that could be the catalyst for 10-year yields getting to 3.25 percent.”

  • Major stock indexes opened slightly higher this morning (slightly bad for mortgage rates)
  • Gold prices rose $7 to $1,315 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 spiked by $3 to $71 a barrel (very bad news for mortgage rates, because higher energy prices play a large role in creating inflation. Prices were under $50 a barrel just 6 months ago)
  • The yield on ten-year Treasuries rose for the third consecutive day by 2 basis points (2/100ths of 1 percent) to 3.00 percent. This bad, as mortgage rates tend to move with Treasury yields.
  • CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index edged 3 points higher to 44 (out of a possible 100). That means we’re still in the “neutral” range. Moving into a less fearful state is usually bad 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.
Verify your new rate (Feb 20th, 2019)

This week

Releases this week are considerably less important than last week’s. We don’t get anything special until Wednesday. Unless the Iran deal blows up or the Chinese trade war escalates, which can happen any day.

  • Monday: nothing
  • Tuesday: nothing
  • Wednesday: Producer Price Index (PPI) for April, which tracks inflationary pressure at the manufacturing / wholesale level of the economy. Analysts expect a .3 percent increase
  • Thursday: Week unemployment claims (215,000 new claims expected), Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation at the consumer level (analysts predict a .3 percent increase). The Core CPI is expected to  edge up by .2 percent
  • Friday: Consumer Sentiment for May (economists anticipate a 1 point decrease to 98.7)

Rate lock recommendation

Rates are rising overall, and we got a good dose of that today. I would lock if I were closing any time soon. If my closing date was further out than 30 days, and I could lock without an upfront charge, I’d consider doing that as well.

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. If you can get a better rate (say, a .125 percent lower rate) by waiting a couple of days to get a 15-day lock instead of a 30, it’s probably safe to consider.

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
  • LOCK if closing in 45 days
  • LOCK if closing in 60 days
Lock in your rate. Start here. (Feb 20th, 2019)

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.

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 (Feb 20th, 2019)