September 13, 2018
Mortgage rates fell modestly today, following a weaker-than-expected report on inflation. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the change in prices that consumers pay for various goods. The widely followed "core" reading (which ignores more volatile food and energy prices) fell to an annual pace of 2.2%. Economists were expecting that number to remain at 2.4%.
Lower inflation is good for rates because rates are based on the bond market. Bond investors are paying a lump sum today in exchange for a fixed schedule of payments in the future. Higher inflation means the money they receive in the future may have less buying power. When inflation is expected to rise, bond investors therefore demand higher premiums--another way of saying they're charging higher interest rates to borrowers.
In the grand scheme of things, today's improvement was fairly negligible. Most prospective borrowers will only see the gains in the form of slightly lower upfront costs (a couple hundred dollars, depending on loan size). The broader outlook for rates remains fairly gloomy. We're near the highest levels since 2011, and it's easier to count reasons rates might move higher as opposed to lower.
Loan Originator Perspective
Bonds barely budged today, despite tepid consumer inflation data. A muted response to bond-positive news is NOT a good sign. I don't know what it'll take to ignite a rally here, but I know it's not happening at present. I'll continue to lock sooner rather than later. -Ted Rood, Senior Originator
Today's Most Prevalent Rates
- 30YR FIXED - 4.625-4.75
- FHA/VA - 4.25-4.5%
- 15 YEAR FIXED - 4.125%
- 5 YEAR ARMS - 3.75-4.25% depending on the lender
Ongoing Lock/Float Considerations
- Rates moved higher in a serious way due to several big-picture headwinds, including: the Fed's rate hike outlook (and general policy tightening), the increased amount of Treasury issuance to pay for the tax bill (higher bond issuance = higher rates), and the possibility that fiscal stimulus results in higher growth/inflation.
- Despite those headwinds, the upward momentum in rates has cooled off heading into the summer months. This could merely be the eye of the storm, or it could end up being the moment where markets began to doubt that prevailing trends would continue.
- It makes sense to remain defensive (i.e. generally more lock-biased) because the headwinds mentioned above won't die down quickly. Temporary corrections can be explained away, but it will take a big change in economic fundamentals or geopolitical risk for the big picture to change. While that doesn't necessarily mean rates have to skyrocket, there's a good chance it means rates will struggle to move much lower than early 2018 lows until more convincing motivation shows up.
- Rates discussed refer to the most frequently-quoted, conforming, conventional 30yr fixed rate for top tier borrowers among average to well-priced lenders. The rates generally assume little-to-no origination or discount except as noted when applicable. Rates appearing on this page are "effective rates" that take day-to-day changes in upfront costs into consideration.