What’s driving current mortgage rates?
Mortgage rates today opened mostly unchanged. The University of Michigan reported that its Consumer Sentiment Index held its ground in May, remaining at 98.8. Economists had expected it to fall very slightly to 98.7.
The report had little effect on mortgage rates because it nearly matched predictions. Consumers feel confident about the economy and expect a rate increase from the Fed.Rates Below Are Averages. Get Your Personalized Rates Here. (Feb 20th, 2019)
|Conventional 30 yr Fixed||4.75||4.761||Unchanged|
|Conventional 15 yr Fixed||4.292||4.311||Unchanged|
|Conventional 5 yr ARM||4.313||4.766||Unchanged|
|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||4.583||4.778||-0.09%|
|15 year fixed VA||3.875||4.189||Unchanged|
|5 year ARM VA||4.0||4.331||Unchanged|
Financial data affecting today’s mortgage rates
Today’s data mostly point to increasing rates, and because it’s Friday, lenders tend to price a little higher in case anything affecting rates occurs over the weekend when they are closed.
- Major stock indexes opened higher this morning (bad for mortgage rates)
- Gold prices rose $5 to $1,319 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 remained at $71 a barrel (neutral for mortgage rates today; they did not increase or decrease. However, higher energy prices play a large role in creating inflation, and oil was under $50 a barrel just seven months ago)
- The yield on ten-year Treasuries edged up 1 basis point (1/100th of 1 percent) to 2.97 percent. This is slightly bad, as mortgage rates tend to move with Treasury yields.
- CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index moved 3 points higher to 55 (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.
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 as the weeks progress but in the short-term, they have been holding steady and even fallen a couple of times. If you can get a better rate by waiting a day or two (for example, you’re 17 days from closing and could save 1.125 percent by grabbing a 15-day lock), consider it. I don’t expect major rate moves unless some huge geopolitical event occurs.
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
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)