Susan Deierling, Assoc. Broker
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Realty Executives Northern Arizona
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Mortgage markets improved slightly last week. With a dearth of new U.S. economic data due for release, investors turned their collective attention to the Europe, China, and the Middle East.
U.S. mortgage rates fell slightly in the holiday-shortened week.
According to Freddie Mac, the average conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 3.39% nationwide for borrowers willing to pay 0.7 discount points plus a full set of closing costs. 0.7 discount points is a one-time closing cost equal to 0.7 percent of the borrowed loan size.
As an illustration, a bank’s charge of 0.7 discount points on a $100,000 mortgage would cost $700 to the borrower.
Freddie Mac also reported the average conforming 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rate at 2.70% nationwide with an accompanying 0.6 discount points plus closing costs. Loans with zero discount points carry a higher mortgage rate average.
This week, data returns to Wall Street as a series of housing reports are slated for release, in addition to inflationary reports such Tuesday’s Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The week begins with Retail Sales, released at 8:30 AM ET Monday. On a strong figure, mortgage rates in Cornville are expected to climb. This is because Retail Sales data is closely tied to consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
A growing economy tends to pull mortgage rates higher.
Tuesday’s CPI may do the same.
Inflation erodes the value of a mortgage bond so when inflation pressures grow, demand for mortgage bonds fall which, in turn, causes mortgage rates to rise. If CPI is higher-than-expected, mortgage rates will likely rise.
Then, there’s a flurry of housing data. The Housing Market Index (Tuesday), Housing Starts (Wednesday) and Existing Home Sales (Friday) all hit this week. Strength in housing may lead mortgage rates higher, harming home affordability for today’s home buyers.
At today’s mortgage rates, every 1/8% increase raises monthly mortgage payments roughly $7 per $100,000 borrowed.
Mortgage rates dropped to another all-time low last week as concerns for global economic growth helped U.S. home buyers and refinancing households nationwide.
U.S. mortgage rates responded to non-U.S. events and, for rate shoppers and home buyers in Cornville , home affordability improved.
Early in the week, with Greece and Spain debating new austerity measures, and with citizen protests rampant, a flight-to-quality helped to boost demand for U.S. mortgage bonds. So did rumors of a weakening Chinese economy.
“Flight-to-quality” is a trading term for when investors shun investment risk in favor of safer, more high-quality portfolio assets. Typically, this involves selling stocks and buying bonds, including mortgage-backed ones.
When demand for mortgage-backed bonds rise, mortgage rates tend to fall.
Demand for bonds is also receiving a boost from the Federal Reserve’s latest market stimulus program — QE3.
“QE3” is a shorthand term for the Fed’s third qualitative easing, a program by which the nation’s central banker buys mortgage-backed securities on the open market in hopes of driving mortgage rates down.
So far, it’s been working. Since the Federal Reserve announced QE3 in mid-September, conforming mortgage rates have been on steady decline.
According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate slipped to 3.40% nationwide last week with an accompanying 0.6 discount points plus closing costs. The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate moved to 2.73%, also with 0.6 discount points and closing costs. Both rates are at all-time lows.
This week, mortgage rates have a lot of data on which to trade, and may be poised to bounce higher.
In addition to the release of manufacturing, construction and retail sales reports, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will post its September Non-Farm Payrolls report Friday. More commonly called the “jobs report”, the monthly release takes on added significance now that the Federal Reserve has said that its open-ended QE3 program will be linked to the U.S. jobs economy.
Wall Street expects to see 120,000 net new jobs created in September. If the actual reading exceeds this figure, mortgage rates should rise.