May 19, 2015
Mortgage rates continued higher at an unsettling pace today, following an exceptionally strong reading on Residential Construction data. This particular report doesn't historically cause a lot of rate volatility, but it comes at a time when markets are considering the Fed's next move and where any strong showing for the economy increases the odds of a rate hike.
Although the Fed Funds Rate doesn't correlate directly with mortgage rates, this particular rate hike (whenever it happens) will be a major symbolic shift away from the 'emergency' rate levels that haven't budged since 2008. As such, rates are likely to move higher across the board at first. Indeed, much of the recent move higher is due to market participants pricing in their expectations for that sort of big-picture shift. The fact that it coincides with a separate potential big-picture shift in European rates markets is only making things worse.
And yet, rates remain in historically good territory today. Additionally, they haven't been seeing nearly the same sort of freakouts that characterized 2013's taper tantrum. After getting down to 3.875% on Friday, the average lender is now back to quoting conventional 30yr fixed rates of 4.0% on top tier scenarios. Far fewer lenders remain at 3.875% and a few more have pushed up to 4.125%. Only May 12th and 13th have seen higher rates in 2015. We haven't been in a situation where floating makes arguably more sense than locking since mid April.
Loan Originator Perspective
"The trend this week hasn't been to kind to floaters. All of the gains from the end of last week have been given back. The next market moving event happens tomorrow with the release of the minutes from the last FOMC meeting. If it indicates a rate hike coming sooner, the trend will continue to worsen. If we get bearish minutes indicating the Fed is more likely to wait on a rate hike, we should enjoy a nice rally. Base your decision on whether to lock or float depending on how you think the minutes will be translated." -Victor Burek, Open Mortgage
"It's safe to say that the tide is continuing to move towards higher rates. Tomorrow brings the release of the FOMC minutes from their April meeting. Any discussions of rosy economic conditions or looming inflation will only send rates higher. There's no reason in my mind to risk pricing when the trend is against us. Lock 'em if you got 'em." -Ted Rood, Senior Originator
Today's Best-Execution Rates
- 30YR FIXED - 4.00%
- FHA/VA - 3.75
- 15 YEAR FIXED - 3.125-3.25
- 5 YEAR ARMS - 2.75 - 3.25% depending on the lender
Ongoing Lock/Float Considerations
- 2015 began with a strong move to the lowest rates seen since May 2013. The catalyst was Europe and the introduction of European quantitative easing.
- It's a highly uncertain time for global financial markets. On the one hand, some believe we're in the midst of a race among world central banks to devalue currencies and lower interest rates. Others believe that the global economy is turning a corner and rates will grind higher. That had been creating a lot of volatility, which made for uncertain fluctuations from day to day. But those periods of volatility have been interspersed by utter indecision where rates are effectively drifting sideways with no conviction and no desire to get off the fence.
- With European QE having now begun, we're on high alert for a big picture bounce in European economic data, sentiment, growth, and rates. The more it looks like such a bounce is taking hold, the greater the risk that domestic bond markets and mortgage rates will also experience a big bounce higher. Those risks are being compounded by speculation about the Federal Reserve raising rates by the end of 2015.
- We're in the middle of the 2nd big, ugly bounce so far this year and once again forced to confront the possibility that this will be a big-picture, long-lasting correction. Until such a thing can be ruled out, Locking makes far more sense.
- 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).