Mortgage and refinance rates today, March 16, 2021

Peter Warden
The Mortgage Reports editor

Today’s mortgage and refinance rates 

Average mortgage rates unexpectedly rose yesterday. But only by the smallest measurable amount so the damage was barely perceptible.

Today could be even more unpredictable. That’s because the Federal Reserve is answering vital questions at a news conference at 2:30 p.m. (ET). And what’s said there could push rates sharply in either direction — or nowhere. Read on for more.

Find and lock a low rate (May 8th, 2021)

Current mortgage and refinance rates 

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed
Conventional 30 year fixed 2.978% 2.983% -0.01%
Conventional 15 year fixed
Conventional 15 year fixed 2.188% 2.305% -0.06%
Conventional 20 year fixed
Conventional 20 year fixed 2.75% 2.842% Unchanged
Conventional 10 year fixed
Conventional 10 year fixed 1.815% 2.007% -0.08%
30 year fixed FHA
30 year fixed FHA 2.686% 3.342% -0.06%
15 year fixed FHA
15 year fixed FHA 2.462% 3.063% -0.01%
5 year ARM FHA
5 year ARM FHA 2.5% 3.201% Unchanged
30 year fixed VA
30 year fixed VA 2.255% 2.426% -0.04%
15 year fixed VA
15 year fixed VA 2.25% 2.571% Unchanged
5 year ARM VA
5 year ARM VA 2.5% 2.379% Unchanged
Rates are provided by our partner network, and may not reflect the market. Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.
Find and lock a low rate (May 8th, 2021)

COVID-19 mortgage updates: Mortgage lenders are changing rates and rules due to COVID-19. To see the latest on how coronavirus could impact your home loan, click here.

Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

As long as the economic recovery remains on track, the overall trend for mortgage rates is likely to remain upward. Of course, rises will be punctuated with falls. But I’m expecting the increases to outnumber the decreases and to usually be bigger.

Yes, it’s always possible that some big event will derail the recovery. But, right now, that looks significantly less likely than a boom.

So my personal rate lock recommendations remain:

  • 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

But I don’t claim perfect foresight. And your personal analysis could turn out to be as good as mine — or better. So you might choose to be guided by your instincts and your personal tolerance for risk.

Market data affecting today’s mortgage rates 

Here’s a snapshot of the state of play this morning at about 9:50 a.m. (ET). The data, compared with roughly the same time yesterday, were:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasurys inched down to 1.60% from 1.61%. (Good for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates normally tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields, though less so recently
  • Major stock indexes were mostly higher on opening. (Bad for mortgage rates.) When investors are buying shares they’re often selling bonds, which pushes prices of those down and increases yields and mortgage rates. The opposite happens when indexes are lower
  • Oil prices were lower at $64.45, down from $64.69 a barrel. (Neutral for mortgage rates*.) Energy prices play a large role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity.) 
  • Gold prices rose to $1,731 from $1,727 an ounce. (Neutral 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
  • CNN Business Fear & Greed index — Rose to 65 from 57 out of 100. (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. So lower readings are better than higher ones

*A change of less than $20 on gold prices or 40 cents on oil ones is a fraction of 1%. So we only count meaningful differences as good or bad for mortgage rates.

Caveats about markets and rates

Before the pandemic and the Federal Reserve’s interventions in the mortgage market, you could look at the above figures and make a pretty good guess about what would happen to mortgage rates that day. But that’s no longer the case. We still make calls. And are usually right. But our record for accuracy won’t achieve its former high levels until things settle down.

So use markets only as a rough guide. Because they have to be exceptionally strong or weak to rely on them. But, with that caveat, so far mortgage rates today look highly unpredictable. Just be aware that intraday swings (when rates change direction during the day) are a common feature right now.

Find and lock a low rate (May 8th, 2021)

Important notes on today’s mortgage rates

Here are some things you need to know:

  1. Typically, mortgage rates go up when the economy’s doing well and down when it’s in trouble. But there are exceptions. Read ‘How mortgage rates are determined and why you should care
  2. Only “top-tier” borrowers (with stellar credit scores, big down payments and very healthy finances) get the ultralow mortgage rates you’ll see advertised
  3. Lenders vary. Yours may or may not follow the crowd when it comes to daily rate movements — though they all usually follow the wider trend over time
  4. When rate changes are small, some lenders will adjust closing costs and leave their rate cards the same
  5. Refinance rates are typically close to those for purchases. But some types of refinances are higher following a regulatory change

So there’s a lot going on here. And nobody can claim to know with certainty what’s going to happen to mortgage rates in coming hours, days, weeks, or months.

Are mortgage and refinance rates rising or falling?

Today and soon

Today is unusual because a potentially important Fed news conference is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. (ET). These events aren’t especially rare. They often follow meetings of the Fed’s major policy body, the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC. And it meets eight times a year.

But this one is unusually important. And investors will pay minute attention to what’s said, both at the news conference and in the associated documents that will also be published this afternoon.

Why so important? Well, investors are looking forward to the looming economic boom. But they’re worried that it might bring inflation. And they’re looking to the Fed to signal that it will protect them from any consequent damage to their interests.

So, were the Fed to provide that assurance this afternoon, investors might ease off on selling long-term, fixed-rate assets, such as Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. And that could lower mortgage rates or leave them where they are. But if the Fed ducks the issue or signals a hard line, they could sell more, which would likely push up those rates.

This afternoon’s drama

CNBC reported yesterday on the potential for drama:

BlackRock’s Rick Rieder said Powell’s briefing could be “exciting to see” and the Fed meeting could be the central bank’s “March Madness” for markets, since the chairman could begin to reveal some views on the future path of Fed policy.


— CNBC Market Insider — Why this week’s Fed meeting could be ‘March Madness’ for markets, March 15, 2021

This morning’s retail sales and industrial production figures for February were worse than expected, partly due to that month’s terrible weather events. And the key Treasury bond yield is slightly lower, which is good for mortgage rates. But mostly markets seem to be keeping their powder dry for this afternoon.

For more background on my wider thinking, read our latest weekend edition, which is published every Saturday soon after 10 a.m. (ET).

Recently

Over much of 2020, the overall trend for mortgage rates was clearly downward. And a new, weekly all-time low was set on 16 occasions last year, according to Freddie Mac.

The most recent weekly record low occurred on Jan. 7, when it stood at 2.65% for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. But rates then rose. And Freddie’s Mar. 11 report puts that weekly average at 3.05% (with 0.6 fees and points), up from the previous week’s 3.02%.

Expert mortgage rate forecasts

Looking further ahead, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) each have a team of economists dedicated to monitoring and forecasting what will happen to the economy, the housing sector, and mortgage rates.

And here are their current rates forecasts for each quarter of 2021 (Q1/21, Q2/21, Q3/21, and Q4/21).

The numbers in the table below are for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages. Fannie’s and the MBA’s were updated on Feb. 18 and 19 respectively. But Freddie now publishes forecasts quarterly and its figures are from mid-January:

Forecaster Q1/21 Q2/21 Q3/21 Q4/21
Fannie Mae 2.8% 2.8% 2.9% 2.9%
Freddie Mac 2.9% 2.9% 3.0% 3.0%
MBA 2.8% 3.1% 3.3% 3.4%

However, given so many unknowables, the current crop of forecasts may be even more speculative than usual. And there’s certainly a widening spread as the year progresses.

Find your lowest rate today

Some lenders have been spooked by the pandemic. And they’re restricting their offerings to just the most vanilla-flavored mortgages and refinances.

But others remain brave. And you can still probably find the cash-out refinance, investment mortgage or jumbo loan you want. You just have to shop around more widely.

But, of course, you should be comparison shopping widely, no matter what sort of mortgage you want. As federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:

Shopping around for your mortgage has the potential to lead to real savings. It may not sound like much, but saving even a quarter of a point in interest on your mortgage saves you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Verify your new rate (May 8th, 2021)

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.