Mortgage bond prices rose nicely on Thursday, pushing mortgage backed security yields to their lowest levels in nearly three weeks following soft economic data. As a result, 30YR Fixed interest rates remain at 4.875% to end the week. While Labor Department officials surmised that the rise in jobless claims was a result of delayed reporting from the prior week, the claims have definitely drifted higher following what now appears to have been an overstated plunge in December/January. This morning, bond prices are mixed and have shown little reaction to the second report of Q4 GDP. Growth was revised higher, to 5.9% from 5.7% for the quarter, but personal consumption was revised lower, to 1.7% from 2.0%. Later today, we will receive the U of M's final February consumer confidence index as well as January's existing home sales data. With existing home sales now representing about 90% of all sales, it's about the only housing data (other than valuations) that matters.
Massachusetts mortgage rates closed the month of November at a near 52 week low, causing new loan originations at many brokerage firms to soar. Many homeowners decided to take advantage of the opportunity and were able to lock-in at historically low interest rates. On November 27th, mortgage backed securities (MBS: FNMA 30YR 4.50%) traded at their highest price since January 7, 2009, driving 30 Year Fixed rates down to 4.625%. The national 30 year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.71% for the week ending Dec. 3rd...the lowest average since Freddie Mac began its weekly survey in 1971. To benchmark, Massachusetts mortgage rates are down from 4.78% last week and 5.53% a year ago. Those tracking rates may recall mortgage rates around 6.00% this past summer.
In general, bond prices and bond yields share an inverse relationship...when mortgage backed securities are in high demand, MBS prices increase and yields decline. When bond yields decline, mortgage rates typically decrease. Bonds are a safe-haven for financial investors looking for an alternative to the risky equity markets. Last week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the recovery would not be an easy one, inflation will remain low and that rates will remain low for an extended period of time. As a result, the mortgage backed securities experienced a substantial sell-off, causing prices to drop and mortgage rates to increase .125-.250% by week ending Friday December 4th.
In summary, I encourage anyone pondering the thought of refinancing to act now and take advantage of the all-time low rates...don't attempt to time the market! Many homeowners are hesitant to pull the trigger in hopes of obtaining a lower rate and end up missing the opportunity. Often times, the media/publications can confuse borrowers. Rate shoppers become frustrated when they call their mortgage broker inquiring about current rates to find out the rates are different then what they're reading online or in the newspaper. It's important that shoppers understand mortgage backed securities are indeed "securities" that trade in "real time" and are subject to change hourly due to market volatility. Many online advertising websites are updated 3-4 times daily, however it is too cumbersome a project to modify websites an a minute-by-minute basis. Newspaper rates are typically due the Wednesday before the Sunday publication, thus mortgage rates are nearly 4 days out-dated by the time shoppers are reading the mortgage grids.
Lastly, Fannie Mae announced it will be tightening their lending guidelines on December 12th...no doubt causing headaches for borrowers looking to obtain financing.
HomeQuest Mortgage offers a FREE Rate Alert program to assist our customers. Simply tell us what rate you desire and our team of analyst will contact you once your target rate is available. To learn more, visit www.HQWorksForMe.com.
Many consumers are misinformed about the different factors in the economy that impact mortgage rates. A common misconception among borrowers and also some members of the media is that the Federal Funds Rate set by the Federal Reserve is tied to mortgage rates. When the Fed cuts the Fed Funds Rate and mortgage rates don't go down accordingly many people are left scratching their heads wondering why.
The reason for this is that mortgage rates are determined by Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) and the current coupon they are trading at. MBS are traded every business day just like stocks and other bonds. As investor demand for MBS increases, the price of MBS goes up and the yield goes down resulting in lower mortgage rates.
A simple way to think about mortgage rates is anything that increases investor demand to buy mortgages results in lower mortgage rates. For example when an investor pulls money out of stocks they usually turn to safer fixed income investments to put their money and MBS is one option they have. So when stocks decline that is one possible reason demand for MBS could increase. Another factor that can help investor demand for mortgages is low inflation. MBS and other bonds are fixed income investments so inflation diminishes the returns on that type of investment. If inflation is low then the fixed investments remain attractive. On the other side, if inflation is high then investments like MBS are less attractive and demand decreases causing mortgage interest rates to increase.
The reason that mortgage rates often increase when the Fed lowers rates is because the lower Fed rate is a stimulus for the economy and often leads to higher inflation in the future. This is bad for mortgage bonds which is why mortgage rates usually increase when the Fed cuts their rate.
Another misconception some people have is that mortgage rates are based on the US 10 year Treasury Bond. Often times the MBS market moves within a certain spread compared to the 10yr but at times there is a large disconnect between the two. This is the problem we are currently experiencing that is keeping mortgage rates higher than they could be given more traditional spreads. There are days where the yield on the 10yr will drop while the yield for MBS will increase when normally they would move in a similar path.
Daily trading prices and yields for Mortgage Backed Securities are not as readily available as information on stocks markets and government bonds. At HomeQuest Mortgage we subscribe to a service that gives us access to track the daily trading yields of MBS. This allows us to give our borrowers the most up to the minute advice on whether to lock or float their interest rate depending on current market conditions.