What’s driving current mortgage rates?
Average mortgage rates today went straight off a cliff following the Fed announcement yesterday. Small changes in tone can spark great enthusiasm (or fear) in markets. The Fed made it clear that it is not seeing upward pressure on the economy — which makes bond investors happy and causes mortgage rates to fall.
There are three important financial releases today. But the Personal Income (predicted: .5 percent increase), Consumer Spending (predicted .3 percent increase), and the Core Inflation Rate (predicted: .3 percent increase) have all been delayed because of the government shutdown. If we get to see these numbers, they can strongly affect mortgage rates.» MORE: Shop & Compare Today's Rates (February 17, 2019)
|Conventional 30 yr Fixed||4.583||4.595||-0.13%|
|Conventional 15 yr Fixed||4.167||4.186||-0.04%|
|Conventional 5 yr ARM||4.25||4.891||-0.03%|
|30 year fixed FHA||3.813||4.801||-0.13%|
|15 year fixed FHA||3.688||4.638||-0.06%|
|5 year ARM FHA||4.063||5.379||-0.03%|
|30 year fixed VA||3.938||4.114||-0.13%|
|15 year fixed VA||3.75||4.063||-0.13%|
|5 year ARM VA||4.125||4.607||-0.05%|
|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 financial data are completely mixed — good, bad and unchanged — so probably neutral overall. Today.
- Major stock indexes opened mixed and fairly flat ( Neutral for Mortgage rates)
- Gold prices increased by $14 to $1,323 an ounce. (This is slightly 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 are up $1 to $55 a barrel (bad for mortgage rates because energy prices play a large role
- in creating inflation)
- The yield on ten-year Treasuries fell 7 basis points (7/100th of 1 percent) to 2.65 percent. That’s excellent for borrowers because mortgage rates tend to follow Treasuries
- CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index rose 5 points to a reading of 63 (out of a possible 100), a “greedy” level. And the direction of movement is bad for mortgage rates. “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
Rate lock recommendation
The biggest reports for the week will come tomorrow. If you can get a good rate today and are locking soon, you should probably grab it. Gamblers may be rewarded with lower rates if the reports show economic slowing.
But markets are still very unstable as long as all we have is a temporary resolution to the shutdown and no budget. If we get this fixed soon, the resulting economic tear could push rates up fast. But if we don’t, there is every chance of recession and lower rates. That’s why rates have stalled; no one knows which way the wind is blowing. Friday may tell us.
If your closing is weeks or months away, 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 your lock, the higher your upfront costs. 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
- FLOAT if closing in 30 days
- FLOAT if closing in 45 days
- FLOAT if closing in 60 days
This week is heavy on economic reporting, a relief after all those unreported numbers during the government shutdown. And the reports are important, too. So mortgage rates could move at more than they did last week.
- Monday: Nothing
- Tuesday: Case-Shiller Home Prices (last month 5.5 percent annual increase), Consumer Confidence Index (predicted: 124)
- Wednesday: ADP Employment, Pending Home Sales, and a Fed Announcement
- Thursday: Personal Income (predicted: .5 percent increase), Consumer Spending (predicted .3 percent increase), and the Core Inflation Rate (predicted: .3 percent increase)
- Friday: Monthly Employment Report (predicted: 177,000 new jobs, unemployment rate remains at 3.9 percent)
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 5 percent interest ($50) each year. (This is called its “coupon rate” or “par rate” because you paid $1,000 for a $1,000 bond, and because its interest rate equals the rate stated on the bond — in this case, 5 percent).
- Your interest rate: $50 annual interest / $1,000 = 5.0%
When rates fall
That’s a pretty good rate today, so lots of investors want to buy it from you. You can sell your $1,000 bond for $1,200. The buyer gets the same $50 a year in interest that you were getting. It’s still 5 percent of the $1,000 coupon. However, because he paid more for the bond, his return is lower.
- 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.Shop & Compare Today's Rates (February 17, 2019)
Mortgage rate methodology
The Mortgage Reports receives rates based on selected 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.