Mortgage rates quiet, awaiting tax reform outcome
By KATHY ORTON
The Washington Post
November 09. 2017 9:30PM
Mortgage rates have settled in the past couple of weeks, waiting for the outcome of the Republican tax overhaul plan.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 3.90 percent. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 3.94 percent a week ago and 3.57 percent a year ago.
The 15-year fixed-rate average fell to 3.24 percent. It was 3.27 percent a week ago and 2.88 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable-rate average wandered lower to 3.22 percent. It was 3.23 percent a week ago and 2.88 percent a year ago.
“Mortgage rates ticked downward at the end of last week following the release of the GOP tax plan and have held steady early this week,” said Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist at Zillow. “The much-anticipated official nomination of Jerome Powell as the next chair of the Federal Reserve and strong jobs report were already priced in, and had little impact on rates. There are no major economic releases scheduled for this week, so markets are likely to be watching for any major announcements on tax reform progress.”
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that more than half of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week. Brett Sinnott, vice president of capital markets at CMG Financial, is one who expects rates to be flat.
“Global tensions continue in all regions of the globe, which has pulled a lot of media attention away from economic conditions,” Sinnott said. “With media coverage seeming to be a big market driver in recent history, the lack of coverage has given rates a temporary break from the spotlight and thus we have seen a slight tick downward. The Fed still expects to increase again before the end of 2017. With the natural slowdown because of the holiday season and continued increases in housing prices, the beginning of 2018 could lead to a battle of higher rates forcing lower housing prices.”
Meanwhile, mortgage applications ran out of steam last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — was unchanged. The refinance index fell 1 percent, while the purchase index ticked up 1 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 49 percent of all applications.
“Overall mortgage application activity was unchanged, as the rate movement did little to spur refinances, which fell slightly, and we saw a small increase in home purchase applications,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist. “Purchase applications remained 9 percent higher than the same week a year ago. There was an almost 8 percent increase in FHA refinance applications over the week following a two-basis point decrease in the FHA rate.”
A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.
The MBA released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) this week that showed credit availability decreased a bit in October. The MCAI slipped 0.2 percent to 181 last month. A decline in the MCAI indicates that lending standards are tightening, while an increase signals they are loosening.
“Credit availability decreased only slightly in October and has been relatively flat for the year to date,” said Lynn Fisher, MBA’s vice president of research and economics. “While government and conforming credit programs saw slight increases in availability in October, a moderate decrease in the number of investor jumbo offerings resulted in a decrease in the total index.”