About a month ago, I discussed whether mortgage rates could drop any lower.
At that time, the en vogue 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.32 per cent, per Freddie Mac data.
Last week, expectedly, it hit a fresh all-time low, falling to 4.12 per cent.
Freddie attributed it to “market concerns over Eurozone sovereign debt default and a weak U.S. employment report for August.”
In other words, more bad economic news we all knew was coming came through the door, putting downward pressure on bond yields, which go hand in hand with mortgage rates.
This was no surprise, given the ongoing negative sentiment that simply won’t go away. The good news is that all the stock market swings are making someone rich, but probably not you or I.
It almost seems orchestrated now, the upswing, the downswing, and repeat. Meanwhile, mortgage rates go up, go down, hover in place, and repeat.
Of course, rates have been trending lower and lower because economic news got progressively worse after a brief bright spot.
But I still believe there probably isn’t much more rates can do in the improvement category. Why?
Well, the 10-year bond yield, which essentially dictates their direction, has a historic floor of around 2%, which happens to be its current level, more or less.
It hit a low of 1.93% earlier this week, but has since risen back above 2%. It’s rock-bottom, at least historically, so chances are it doesn’t get any better.
And, as I mentioned in the previous article, most banks and corporations are much better positioned now than they were when the mortgage crisis first struck.
While things are certainly bad, there’s not really too much new drama. There are a lot of lingering problems that will take a long time to sort out, but probably nothing that would surprise any of us at this point.
That said, mortgage rates on the popular 30-year may flirt with the 3% range, but likely won’t do much more than that.
Does Anybody Care?
Regardless, nobody seems to be interested in the low mortgage rates anyways.
Purchase-money mortgage applications continue to falter, at a time when affordability for first-time homebuyers is at unprecedented levels.
That’s due to a lack of confidence, a lack of employment, and so on. And perhaps a view that buying a home now is like catching a falling knife.
Move-up buyers are screwed because they’ve got no home equity to use as a down payment, let alone to offload their current home, and those looking to refinance are stifled by the same problem, assuming the government doesn’t step in soon.
Finally, mortgage lenders could actually be holding rates a bit higher than they need to be (Chase) to keep demand in line with their reduced staff and risk appetite.
So even if they could go lower, they may not. Either way, I don’t think it’s mortgage rates that are holding us back, it’s housing. It’s just not that attractive anymore.
If you’re wondering whether to lock in your mortgage rate or float it, note that the Fed is considering buying more long-term Treasuries to lower mortgage rates. But this is only expected to lower rates by 0.1 or 0.2 per cent.
Again, I see 3.99% pretty much being the bottom for the 30-year fixed.
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