Mortgage rates today, February 20, 2019, plus lock recommendations

Peter Warden
The Mortgage Reports editor

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

What’s driving current mortgage rates?

Mortgage rates today are just a shade lower than they were yesterday, as we predicted.  That means the run of mostly modest rises and falls on alternate days has now lasted for the last seven working days. So the markets that drive mortgage rates remain adrift and continue to await a trigger that will see a definite trend emerge.

The good news is that this drift is happening while rates are close to their lowest point of the last 12 months. But they’re bound to find a direction sometime fairly soon. Unfortunately, nobody knows when they’ll find it nor which direction they’ll take. This is another day with no scheduled economic reporting. So key markets will be moved, if at all, by big global or domestic news stories that might affect America’s economic fortunes.

The data below the rate table are mostly indicative of unchanged or slightly lower rates in the short-term.

These rates are averages. Click here to get your personalized rate now. (Nov 13th, 2019)
Program Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 yr Fixed 4.538 4.549 -0.04%
Conventional 15 yr Fixed 4.042 4.061 -0.04%
Conventional 5 yr ARM 4.25 4.824 -0.02%
30 year fixed FHA 3.875 4.864 Unchanged
15 year fixed FHA 3.688 4.638 -0.06%
5 year ARM FHA 3.938 5.299 Unchanged
30 year fixed VA 4.413 4.606 Unchanged
15 year fixed VA 3.75 4.063 -0.13%
5 year ARM VA 4.063 4.552 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 financial data were mostly neutral or positive for mortgage rates, suggesting a likelihood of little change over the next 24 hours. By approaching 10:00 a.m. (ET), the data, compared with this time yesterday, were:

  • Major stock indexes were very slightly higher (bad for mortgage rates — but only a bit)
  • Gold prices continued to climb, reaching $1,347, compared to yesterday’s $1,336 an ounce. (This 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 were effectively unchanged at $56 a barrel (neutral for mortgage rates but still important because energy prices play a large role in creating inflation)
  • The yield on ten-year Treasuries was effectively unchanged at 2.65 percent. That’s neutral for borrowers because mortgage rates tend to follow Treasuries
  •  CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index had dropped a couple of points, falling to 68 from yesterday’s 70 (out of a possible 100). But it remains solidly in “greed” territory. That is good for borrowers, but again only very slightly. “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. So lower readings are better than higher ones.
Verify your new rate (Nov 13th, 2019)

Rate lock recommendation

There’s little to suggest mortgage rates will break out of their current becalmed state today. So you may feel safe continuing to float yours. However, you must not allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security. It’s likely rates will soon begin to move more sharply in one direction. And the trigger that sets off that move won’t signal its presence in advance. You won’t know about it until it’s pulled — and that might, just possibly, be today. So remain vigilant right up until you lock in your rate.

You may wish to lock your loan anyway if you are buying a home and have a higher debt-to-income ratio than most. Indeed, you should be more inclined to lock because any rises in rates could kill your mortgage approval. If you’re refinancing, that’s less critical and you may be able to gamble and float.

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
  • FLOAT if closing in 15 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 30 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 45 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 60 days
Verify your new rate (Nov 13th, 2019)

This week

A couple of reports this week are marked “DELAYED” in MarketWatch’s economic calendar. This has become routine in the wake of the recent government shutdown.

Thursday is the day likely to see most action this week, with the publication of four reports, any of which could move mortgage rates. However, tomorrow’s release of the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC — the Fed body that determines many interest rates) minutes of its last meeting also has the potential to cause waves. The details those reveal sometimes move markets if they contain something unexpected. However, there was an official statement after the last meeting, and committee members have had numerous speaking engagement since then. So the likelihood of serious shocks seems limited.

  • Monday: Nothing
  • Tuesday: Nothing
  • Wednesday: Publication of the minutes of the last meeting of the FOMC
  • Thursday: Weekly Jobless Claims (predicted 229,000), Durable Goods Orders for December (forecast up 1.2 percent), January Existing Home Sales (expected 4.98 million), Leading Economic Indicators for January
  • Friday: Nothing

What causes rates to rise and fall?

Mortgage interest rates depend 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.

Verify your new rate (Nov 13th, 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.