Mortgage Rates Close In on 4 Percent!

Mortgage rates climbed for the sixth consecutive week but remain relatively low by historical standards. The uptick in rates can be attributed to improving economic reports and speculation that the Federal Reserve will scale back bond purchases.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed loan achieved a 14-month high and is closing in on the 4 percent mark. According to the latest survey by mortgage buyer Freddie Mac, the average on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is up 0.07 percentage point from last week, climbing from 3.91 percent to 3.98 percent.

The average rate on a 15-year fixed loan also increased, moving to 3.1 percent from 3.03 percent. The 15-year fixed is now the highest it’s been since April. The average rate on a 15-year fixed loan previously achieved a historic low in early May when it dipped to 2.56 percent, the lowest it had been since November.

“Fixed mortgage rates crept up further this week following a solid employment report for May,” Frank E. Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a release. “The economy added 175,000 new jobs, and the number of discouraged workers fell by 780,000 to the fewest since September 2009.”

Hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages were relatively steady this week. The average on the five-year ARM rose slightly to 2.79 percent, up from 2.74 percent a week ago. Comparatively, the average on a one-year ARM remained static week over week at 2.58 percent.

With fixed-rate mortgages on the rise, adjustable-rate mortgages are expected to gain in popularity, especially among home owners wanting to refinance and lock in a low rate. Nothaft indicated this trend is already happening: ARM applications have jumped to 17 percent from 13 percent since the start of May.

Mortgage expert Al Bowman points to the Commerce Department’s retail sales data for May as an indicator for the strength of the economy and where mortgage rates are headed:

The Commerce Department gave us this morning’s big news with the release of May’s Retail Sales data early this morning. They announced a 0.6% percent increase in retail-level sales last month that exceeded forecasts of a 0.3% rise. This means that consumers spent more than expected, making the data negative for the bond market and mortgage rates because consumer spending makes up so much of our overall economy. Softening the news a bit was a secondary reading that excludes larger and more volatile auto transactions. It showed a 0.3% increase, matching analysts’ forecasts. Still, the data points towards stronger economic activity, so we need to consider it bad news for mortgage rates.

Increased consumer spending may continue the upward trend for mortgage rates, but the general sentiment is that rates will fall in the coming weeks. In the latest Mortgage Rate Trend Index by, 91 percent of the mortgage experts polled believe rates will fall or remain unchanged over the next week. “We should be establishing a bullish (higher prices, lower yields) daily technical cycle, which will last a couple of weeks,” opines Dick Lepre, a senior loan officer at RPM Mortgage. “The longer-term picture — to the end of the year — is still bearish (lower prices, higher yields).”




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