What’s driving current mortgage rates?
Average mortgage rates today edged slightly lower, continuing recent trends. The only report we received today was only moderately important, the Case-Shiller home prices for October. It showed slowing in housing markets, but the data are two months old and did not impact mortgage rates much.
HOWEVER, the stock market stormed back after weeks of weakness, with the Dow recording its best gain ever, 1,086 points. Experts attribute this to after Christmas bargain hunting by investors seeking to take advantage of basement-level prices. Whether this trend is sustainable remains to be seen.
When trading is light, small events can have a larger impact — so if you are floating a rate, stay on top of the news and in contact with your lender. It’s unlikely that we’ll see large movements, but if we do they will happen fast.
|Conventional 30 yr Fixed||4.792||4.803||Unchanged|
|Conventional 15 yr Fixed||4.292||4.311||-0.04%|
|Conventional 5 yr ARM||4.313||4.946||Unchanged|
|30 year fixed FHA||4.125||5.117||-0.47%|
|15 year fixed FHA||3.813||4.764||Unchanged|
|5 year ARM FHA||4.0||5.378||-0.02%|
|30 year fixed VA||4.75||4.947||+0.04%|
|15 year fixed VA||4.0||4.315||Unchanged|
|5 year ARM VA||4.125||4.632||Unchanged|
|Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.|
Financial data affecting today’s mortgage rates
All major numbers reversed their courses and point to rising rates.
- Major stock indexes rose sharply (bad for mortgage rates)
- Gold prices increased again (this time by $2 to $1,271 an ounce. (This is good 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)
- Oil prices increased $2 to $46 a barrel (bad news for rates because energy prices play a large role in creating inflation)
- The yield on ten-year Treasuries rose 3 basis points (3/100th of 1 percent) to 2.80 percent. That’s bad for borrowers because mortgage rates tend to follow Treasuries, and this is the lowest reading in months
- CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index increased by 3 points to a reading of 6 (out of a possible 100). That score is in the “extreme fear” range. Good for 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
Rate lock recommendation
Today’s data point to higher mortgage rates, but markets are unstable. You can probably float a day or so if that will get you into a better tier (for instance, drop from a 45-day lock to a 30-day, or a 30-day into a 15-day lock). If closing soon, current rates are attractive enough to feel good about.
In a rising rate environment, the decision to lock or float becomes complicated. Obviously, if you know rates are rising, you want to lock in as soon as possible. However, the longer your lock, the higher your upfront costs. If you are weeks away from closing on your mortgage, that’s something to consider. On the flip side, if a higher rate would wipe out your mortgage approval, you’ll probably want to lock in even if it costs more.
If you’re still floating, stay in close contact with your lender, and keep an eye on markets. I recommend:
- LOCK if closing in 7 days
- LOCK if closing in 15 days
- FLOAT if closing in 30 days
- FLOAT if closing in 45 days
- FLOAT if closing in 60 days
This week is holiday-shortened due to the Christmas holiday. Expect light trading and few reports.
- Monday: nothing
- Tuesday: Christmas — markets closed
- Wednesday: Case-Shiller home prices for October (previous: 5.5 percent increase)
- Thursday: New home sales for November (predicted: 568,000)
- Friday: Pending Home Sales for November (previous: -2.6 percent)
What causes rates to rise and fall?
Mortgage interest rates depend on a great deal on the expectations of investors. Good economic news tends to be bad for interest rates because an active economy raises concerns about inflation. Inflation causes fixed-income investments like bonds to lose value, and that causes their yields (another way of saying interest rates) to increase.
For example, suppose that two years ago, you bought a $1,000 bond paying five percent interest ($50) each year. (This is called its “coupon rate.”) That’s a pretty good rate today, so lots of investors want to buy it from you. You sell your $1,000 bond for $1,200.
When rates fall
The buyer gets the same $50 a year in interest that you were getting. However, because he paid more for the bond, his interest rate is now five percent.
- Your interest rate: $50 annual interest / $1,000 = 5.0%
- Your buyer’s interest rate: $50 annual interest / $1,200 = 4.2%
The buyer gets an interest rate, or yield, of only 4.2 percent. And that’s why, when demand for bonds increases and bond prices go up, interest rates go down.
When rates rise
However, when the economy heats up, the potential for inflation makes bonds less appealing. With fewer people wanting to buy bonds, their prices decrease, and then interest rates go up.
Imagine that you have your $1,000 bond, but you can’t sell it for $1,000 because unemployment has dropped and stock prices are soaring. You end up getting $700. The buyer gets the same $50 a year in interest, but the yield looks like this:
- $50 annual interest / $700 = 7.1%
The buyer’s interest rate is now slightly more than seven percent. Interest rates and yields are not mysterious. You calculate them with simple math.
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.