Mortgage rates remained unchanged in the week ending 28th February. The stall in the downward trend came off the back of 3 consecutive weeks of decline. 30-year fixed rates remained unchanged at 4.35%, holding at the lowest level since 7th February’s 4.32%. The figures were released by Freddie Mac.
30-year fixed rates have fallen by 59 basis points since mid-November of last year, the most recent peak.
The pause in rates came as concerns over the global and U.S economic outlook continued to linger. Mixed sentiment towards progress on trade talks between the U.S and China led to a mid-week hiccup. The North Korea Summit also ended abruptly, which was not the outcome that the markets were looking for.
Economic Data from the Week
Economic data released through the week included December housing sector numbers and consumer confidence figures on Tuesday. December factory orders and January pending home sales on Wednesday that came ahead of 4th quarter GDP numbers on Thursday.
On the housing front, house price growth slowed further in December, according to the S&P / CS HPI Composite figures. Coupled with falling mortgage rates, the slower growth in house prices will be welcomed news for prospective home buyers.
Building permits continued its upward trend in December, following a 5% jump in November. In contrast, housing starts slumped by 11.2%, though this could be more to do with the weather than market conditions.
The good news was a combined jump in consumer confidence and pending home sales. Activity in the spring could deliver a much-needed boost to the sector.
Finally, the 4th quarter GDP numbers were in line with expectations. While growth was significantly slower than the 3rd quarter, it could have been far worse. Nonetheless, slower growth and FED Chair Powell’s testimony contributed to the steady mortgage rate figures.
Freddie Mac Rates
The weekly average rates for new mortgages as of 28th February were quoted by Freddie Mac to be:
- 30-year fixed rates held steady at 4.35% in the week. Rates were down from 4.43% from a year ago. The average fee also remained unchanged at 0.5 points.
- 15-year fixed rates fell by 1 basis points to 3.77% in the week. Rates were down from 3.90% from a year ago. The average fee increased from 0.4 points to 0.5 points.
- 5-year fixed rates also remained unchanged at 3.84% in the week. Rates increased by 22 basis points from last year’s 3.62%. The average fee held steady at 0.3 points.
Mortgage Bankers’ Association Rates
For the week ending 22nd February, rates were quoted to be:
- Average interest rates for 30-year fixed, backed by the FHA, decreased from 4.68% to 4.64%. Points decreased from 0.58 to 0.48 (incl. origination fee) for 80% LTV loans.
- Average interest rates for 30-year fixed with conforming loan balances decreased from 4.66% to 4.65%. Points remained unchanged at 0.42 (incl. origination fee) for 80% LTV loans.
- Average 30-year rates for jumbo loan balances decreased from 4.56% to 4.40%, the lowest level since January 2018. Points increased from 0.23 to 0.29 (incl. origination fee) for 80% LTV loans.
Weekly figures released by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed that the Market Composite Index, which is a measure of mortgage loan application volume, surged by 5.3% in the week ending 22nd February. The increase follows on from a 3.6% rise from the previous week.
The Refinance Index rose by 5% in the week ending 22nd February. The rise follows on from a 6% jump in the previous week.
The share of refinance mortgages decreased from 41.7% to 40.4%, following a fall from 41.8% to 41.7% in the week prior.
According to the MBA, home buyers responded favorably to the shift in the mortgage rate environment. Purchase applications for both conventional and government loans were reported to have risen in the reporting week. The upward trend in refinance application volume saw the index hit its highest level in a month.
For the week ahead
It’s a particularly busy week ahead. On the data front, February’s service sector PMI and December new home sales figures will provide direction on Tuesday. Service sector activity will need to impress to ease any immediate concerns over the economic outlook.
Trade figures and February’s ADP nonfarm employment change figures will influence Treasury yields on Wednesday.
Economic data out of the U.S on Thursday includes 4th quarter nonfarm productivity and unit labor costs, which will be released alongside the weekly jobless claims figures. Barring a material deviation from forecast, the numbers will unlikely have a material impact.
Outside of the numbers, there are plenty of factors that will influence Treasury yields and ultimately mortgage rates. Trade talks between China and the U.S, Brexit, and China’s trade data are just a number of drivers ahead of Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates, which will be released on Thursday.