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

Gina Pogol
The Mortgage Reports contributor

mortgage rates today, current mortgage rates, today's mortgage rates

What’s driving current mortgage rates?

Average mortgage rates today barely moved since Friday’s opening. As is typical for Monday, there are no pertinent financial reports scheduled. We’ll be relying on economic data and news to see which way mortgage interest rates will skew over the next business day. One bright spot for the economy (if not for rates) is that Greece finally emerged from being bailed out by its European neighbors — it has a restructuring plan including drastic cuts. 

Anything stabilizing the economy over there makes our Treasuries and MBS less attractive to overseas investors and can cause our rates to rise in the long run.

The week is likely to be changeable and uncertain because there will be less information and also fewer market participants. Vacation tends to do that, and when fewer investors are in the game, rates and prices can swing a bit wildly. If you’re floating a mortgage, stay in contact with your loan officer. If he or she is out of town, have someone you can contact to lock quickly if mortgage rates move fast.

Rates Below Are Averages. Get Your Personalized Rates Here. (Dec 8th, 2019)
Program Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 yr Fixed 4.75 4.761 Unchanged
Conventional 15 yr Fixed 4.292 4.311 Unchanged
Conventional 5 yr ARM 4.25 4.761 Unchanged
30 year fixed FHA 4.417 5.423 +0.04%
15 year fixed FHA 3.625 4.575 Unchanged
5 year ARM FHA 3.875 5.208 Unchanged
30 year fixed VA 4.5 4.694 -0.04%
15 year fixed VA 3.75 4.063 Unchanged
5 year ARM VA 4.0 4.459 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

Today’s data are mixed for mortgage rates. But the most important figures (oil and Treasuries) are favorable.

  • Major stock indexes opened mixed but slightly higher (slightly bad for mortgage rates)
  • Gold prices rose $6 to $1,192 an ounce. (That is good news 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 $65 a barrel (good for today’s mortgage rates, because energy prices play a large role in creating inflation)
  • The yield on ten-year Treasuries fell 2 basis points (2/100th of 1 percent) to 2.84 percent. That is good news for mortgage borrowers because mortgage rates tend to follow Treasuries
  • CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index spiked 8 points to a reading of 57 (out of a possible 100). That is bad for interest rates because the index moved into a “greedier” state. Normally, “greedy” investors push bond prices down (and interest rates up) as they leave the bond market and move into stocks, while “fearful” investors do the opposite
Verify your new rate (Dec 8th, 2019)

Rate lock recommendation

If I had a loan in process, I’d be inclined to lock. Unless by floating a day or two, I could get a better deal (15-day instead of 30-day, for instance) by doing so. But locking in today is also a good decision because today’s mortgage rates are so favorable.

In general, pricing for a 30-day lock is the standard most lenders will (should) quote you. The 15-day or 7-day option should get you a discount of about .125 percent, 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. I recommend:

  • 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
Lock in your rate. Start here. (Dec 8th, 2019)

This week

This week is pretty light on data but heavy on information and opinions from the Fed. That can rock the boat if they come up with anything surprising. Anything indicating increased consumer activity or confidence is bad for mortgage interest rates. The reverse is also true. And when actual figures exceed analysts’ expectations, rates can increase. When actual numbers fall short, mortgage rates often fall.

  • Monday: Nothing
  • Tuesday: Nothing
  • Wednesday: Existing Home Sales  from the National Association of Realtors for July (5.4 million expected), FOMC Minutes from the Fed (Noted from the conclusion of this month’s meeting)
  • Thursday: Weekly Jobless Claims (215k predicted) and New Home Sales for July from the Commerce Department (641,000 predicted)
  • Friday: Durable Goods Orders (expected to drop .9 percent), and a speech from Fed Chair Jerome Powell

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 (Dec 8th, 2019)

Mortgage rate methodology

The Mortgage Reports receives rates based on certain criteria from multiple lending partners each day. We arrive at an average rate and APR for each loan type to display in our chart. Because we average an array of rates, it gives you a better idea of what you might find in the marketplace. Furthermore, we average rates for the same loan types. For example, FHA fixed with FHA fixed. The end result is a good snapshot of daily rates and how they change over time.