Mortgage rates moved sharply higher today, bringing the average top tier 30yr fixed quote back to 4.25% from 4.125% previously.  That doesn't exactly mean that rates are .125%, depending on your perspective.  While the actual rate applied to loan balances is .125% higher on average, the amount of interest paid in conjunction with a mortgage is also depends on upfront costs.  In cases where borrowers are being quoted .125% higher in rate today, those upfront costs are generally lower.  If we express those costs in terms of rate, the actual day-over-day change is 0.07%.  That may not seem like much, but it's the biggest increase in well over a month.

So what's the deal?  With Trump's congressional speech yesterday and surging stock prices today, it's tempting to view the rate move against that backdrop--i.e. markets liked the speech, so they bought stocks and sold bonds (selling bonds results in higher rates).  But the bigger story for the bond market was a series of comments yesterday from several members of the Fed--particularly NY Fed President Dudley.  Long story short, investors felt like Dudley gave a compelling warning about a Fed rate hike 2 weeks from today.  Most of the negative reaction in the bond market occurred before Trump's speech, and the move was well-correlated with Fed rate hike expectations.

While the day-over-day change is bigger than we've seen recently, the net effect isn't too troubling in the bigger picture.  Rates are roughly in the middle of their narrow, post-election range.  As long as they stay there, a case can be made for either locking or floating.  For instance, locking made a lot of sense last Friday when rates were at 3-month lows.  While recent weakness creates some more opportunity for risk-takers, keep in mind that because the range is narrow, it might only take a day or two of weakness before you'd be forced to lock at a loss (which is the lesser of two evils if rates end up breaking through the ceiling of this range as opposed to the floor).

Loan Originator Perspective

If you missed the opportunity to lock yesterday, today’s rate sheets are considerably worse.   When bonds are selling off, and selling off quickly, lenders tend to worsen rate sheets more than necessary since they don’t know when the selling will stop.  Based on that, I think floating for now is worth the risk.  If bonds can just hold the current levels, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some lenders reprice for the better later today. -Victor Burek, Churchill Mortgage

Today's Best-Execution Rates

  • 30YR FIXED - 4.25%
  • FHA/VA - 3.75-4.25%
  • 15 YEAR FIXED - 3.375-3.5%
  • 5 YEAR ARMS -  2.75 - 3.25% depending on the lender

Ongoing Lock/Float Considerations

  • Rates had been trending higher since hitting all-time lows in early July, and exploded higher following the presidential election
  • Some investors are increasingly worried/convinced that the decades-long trend toward lower rates has been permanently reversed, but such a conclusion would require YEARS to truly confirm

  • With the incoming administration's policies driving a large portion of upward rate momentum, mortgage rates will be hard-pressed to return to pre-election levels until well after Trump takes office.  Rates can move for other reasons, but it would take something big and unexpected for rates to get back to pre-election levels. 
  • We'd need to see a sustained push back toward lower rates (something that lasts more than 3 days) before anything less than a cautious, lock-biased approach makes sense for all but the most risk-tolerant borrowers. 
  • As always, please keep in mind that the rates discussed generally refer to what we've termed 'best-execution' (that is, the most frequently quoted, conforming, conventional 30yr fixed rate for top tier borrowers, based not only on the outright price, but also 'bang-for-the-buck.'  Generally speaking, our best-execution rate tends to connote no origination or discount points--though this can vary--and tends to predict Freddie Mac's weekly survey with high accuracy.  It's safe to assume that our best-ex rate is the more timely and accurate of the two due to Freddie's once-a-week polling method).