Freddie Mac 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates

Low mortgage rates are pumping up home affordability.  Average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates made a new all-time low in November, continuing this year Refinance Boom and giving fuel to the budding housing market recovery.  At month-end, Freddie Mac’s survey of 125 banks nationwide put the benchmark product’s rate at 3.32% for borrowers willing to pay 0.8 discount points. This is just 0.01 percentage point above the record-low rate establishing prior to Thanksgiving.  The 15-year fixed mortgage is similarly low, posting 2.64 percent nationwide, on average. This, too, is only slightly higher the all-time low set the week prior.

Falling mortgage rates have helped to offset rising home prices in many U.S. cities.

Steady job creation and rising consumer confidence has swelled the pool of home buyers nationwide, causing home inventories to shrink and home prices to rise. The improving economy has also led to rising rents and now, within many housing markets, it’s less costly to buy and own a home than to rent a comparable one.

A $1,000 mortgage payment affords a $225,000 mortgage payment in Richmond.

Last week, the economy was shown to be improving.

  • The Commerce Department showed that the Gross Domestic Product increased at a 2.7% annual rate in Q3 2012
  • The Labor Department showed first-time unemployment filings dropping by 23,000 claims
  • The Pending Home Sales Index jumped to its highest point since April 2010
  • The Existing Home Sales report showed home sales up 2.1%
  • The Case-Shiller Index showed home values making annual gains

In addition, Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke said that the central bank will take action to speed economic growth, should the U.S. economy start to side-step.

The Fiscal Cliff that dominates about every thought will continue to do so this week. However, there are key data points this week; it is employment week with Nov employment data out on Friday. In the meantime Monday has the Nov ISM manufacturing index, Wednesday the ISM services sector index. Mix in a number of other reports and the data this week will get plenty of attention. The Fiscal Cliff though is the central issue with apparent no progress so far, and a lot of posturing frm both political parties. Markets continue to swing back on forth on each comment, sending the key stock indexes into over-reactions. It is very unlikely there will be any deal until late Dec; both parties want to demonstrate to their core bases that they fought the good fight; an early settlement would be criticized from both the left and right bases that they didn’t hold their ground.

The bond and mortgage markets are idling for the past three weeks; the 10 yr note is being rebuffed every time its yield falls to the 1.60% level as it did last week, on the upside there is good support when the note rate climbs to 1.65%. 30 yr MBSs also in tight ranges with little c\change in rates for the past few weeks. This week we expect the same action, narrow ranges with not much change. In Europe the Greek debt crisis is presently cooling. Europe’s stock markets improving a little. The early estimate for the Nov employment data on Friday is non-farm jobs +80K after October’s increase of 171K, the unemployment rate at 8.0% up frm 7.9%.

Mortgage interest rates remain historically low and are subject to change on a daily basis. The sentiment data has the potential to move the markets.

 

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Housing Starts 2010-2012Mortgage markets carved out a wide range last week, eventually closing slightly worse. Mortgage-backed bonds sold off early in the week on rising investor sentiment. Then, they reversed higher on prepared remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, which tempered Wall Street optimism.

When bonds prices rise, mortgage rates fall.

Conforming and FHA mortgage rates in Virginia edged higher on the week, and remain at a 5-month high.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 4.08% and the 15-year fixed rate mortgage is now 3.30%. Both loan types require an accompanying 0.8 discount points, plus a full set of closing costs.

1 discount point is equal to one percent of your loan size.

Last week’s conforming mortgage rates represent a sharp increase from the week prior when rates for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.92% and 3.16%, respectively.

If you’ve been shopping for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, the interest rate increase added $9.22 to your monthly payment per $100,000 borrowed.

We can’t know in what direction mortgage rates will move this week, but we can be certain they’ll be volatile. Wall Street is suddenly on edge, unsure of whether the economy is improving as recent data suggests, or if the Federal Reserve is correct in that threats to growth persist.

The week’s data schedule is as follows :

Date Time (ET) Statistic For Market Expects Prior
03/27/12 09:00:00 AM Case-Shiller 20-city Index Jan -3.80% -4.00%
03/27/12 10:00:00 AM Consumer Confidence Mar 70.1 70.8
03/28/12 08:30:00 AM Durable Orders Feb 2.80% -3.70%
03/29/12 08:30:00 AM Initial Claims 03/24/12 350K 348K
03/29/12 08:30:00 AM GDP – Third Estimate Q4 3.00% 3.00%
03/29/12 08:30:00 AM GDP Deflator – Third Estimate Q4 0.90% 0.90%
03/30/12 08:30:00 AM Personal Income Feb 0.30% 0.30%
03/30/12 08:30:00 AM Personal Spending Feb 0.60% 0.20%
03/30/12 08:30:00 AM PCE Prices – Core Feb 0.10% 0.20%
03/30/12 09:45:00 AM Chicago PMI Mar 63 64
03/30/12 09:55:00 AM Michigan Sentiment – Final Mar 74.3 74.3

In addition, there are 6 Federal Reserve speakers scheduled for the week, including Chairman Bernanke. Expect mortgage rates to change frequently throughout the week as Wall Street wrestles with data and rhetoric.

Although mortgage rates spiked last week, historically, they remain low. If you’re nervous that rates may rise more, consider locking something in.

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Comparing the 30-year fixed versus the Fed Funds RateThe Federal Open Market Committee meets today, its second of 8 scheduled meetings this year. As a home buyer or would-be refinancing household , get ready for changing mortgage rates.

The Federal Open Market Committee is the 12-person sub-committee within the Federal Reserve that votes on the nation’s monetary policy. Led by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the FOMC’s most prominent role is as steward for the Fed Funds Rate.

The Fed has said repeatedly that it intends to keep the Fed Funds Rate near 0.000 for an “extended period of time”, through 2014 at least.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that Richmond mortgage rates will remain low as well. Mortgage rates are not set by the Federal Open Market Committee. Mortgage rates are set by Wall Street.

As proof that the Fed Funds Rate is distinct from mortgage rates, consider that, since 2000, the difference between the Fed Funds Rate and the average, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate has been as wide as 5.25% and as narrow at 0.50%.

If the Fed Funds Rate was tied to mortgage rates, the chart at right would be linear.

That said, the FOMC can influence mortgage rates. 

After its meetings, the FOMC issues a standard press release to the public which reflects the group’s overall economic outlook. When the FOMC statement is generally “positive”, mortgage rates tend to rise in response. This is because investors often assume more risk in an improving economy and this can harm bond market prices — including those for mortgage-backed bonds.

Conversely, when the Fed is generally negative in its statement, mortgage rates can improve.

Since the FOMC’s last meeting, there has been little about which to be negative with the U.S. economy. Housing and manufacturing are improving; employment is higher; and global markets are regaining their respective footing. The Fed may make note of it. Or, it may not.

Regardless, mortgage rates are expected to move so consider locking your mortgage rate ahead of today’s 2:15 PM ET statement.

There too much risk in floating.

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Net Non-Farm Payrolls (2010-2012)Mortgage markets worsened last week as the U.S. economy continued to show that it’s in recovery, and as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke publicly hinted at the same.

In a congressional testimony Wednesday, Chairman Bernanke suggested that new, Fed-led stimulus may not be imminent, surprising Wall Street analysts and market traders who, for months, have expected a third round of quantitative easing from the Fed.

Bernanke’s comments sparked a sharp bond market sell-off that briefly pushed conforming and FHA mortgage rates up 0.375% in Virginia.

Other relevant data from last week included :

Also, the Pending Home Sales Index posted its highest reading since the end of the 2010 federal home buyer tax credit, suggesting a strong spring housing market.

The economy appears much improved over this time last year.

By the end of the week, mortgage rates had recovered somewhat, but still closed worse on the week. Mortgage rates are higher than their lows of the year.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 3.90% nationwide with an accompanying 0.8 discount points and a full set of closing costs. Borrowers in Midlothian wishing to pay no points, or fewer fees, should expect higher rates than the Freddie Mac average.

The average 15-year mortgage rate is 3.17% with 0.8 discount points and closing costs.

This week, mortgage rates should be volatile. There aren’t many new data points set for release, but the ones on the calendar are bona fide market-movers — especially Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls Report.

 

Date Time (ET) Statistic For Actual Market Expects Prior
03/05/12 10:00:00 AM Factory Orders Jan -1.00% -1.90% 1.10%
03/07/12 08:15:00 AM ADP Employment Change Feb 220K 170K
03/07/12 08:30:00 AM Productivity-Rev. Q4 0.90% 0.70%
03/07/12 03:00:00 PM Consumer Credit Jan $13.4B $19.3B
03/08/12 07:30:00 AM Challenger Job Cuts Feb NA 38.90%
03/08/12 08:30:00 AM Initial Claims 03/03/12 355K 351K
03/09/12 08:30:00 AM Unemployment Rate Feb 8.30% 8.30%
03/09/12 08:30:00 AM Trade Balance Jan -$48.1B -$48.8B
03/09/12 10:00:00 AM Wholesale Inventories Jan 0.60% 1.00%

 

More commonly called the “jobs report”, Non-Farm Payrolls data is closely watched because of the jobs market’s close ties to the health of the economy. Businesses have added jobs through 16 straight months and are expected to show another 210,000 added in February. If the actual number of net new jobs added exceeds 210,000, expect for mortgage rates to rise.

If the number falls short, watch for rates to fall.

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Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishWednesday, the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008.

For the third consecutive month, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just one FOMC member dissented in the 9-1 vote, objecting only to the language used in the Fed’s official statement.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the the U.S. economy has “expanding moderately” since its last meeting in December 2011, adding that the growth is occurring despite “slowing in global growth” — a reference to ongoing economic uncertainty within the Eurozone.

The Federal Reserve expects moderate economic expansion through the next few quarters but is wary of “strains” from global financial markets, and these three threats to the U.S. economy :  

  1. The housing sector remains “depressed”
  2. The unemployment rate remains “elevated”
  3. Fixed business investment has “slowed”

On the positive side, the FOMC said that household spending is rising and inflation remains in-check. The group also believes that employment will gradually improve nationwide going forward.

The Federal Reserve neither introduced new economic stimulus, nor discontinued existing market programs.

Immediately following the FOMC’s statement, mortgage markets rallied, pressuring mortgage rates to fall in and around Midlothian. 

Mortgage rates remain near all-time lows and, for homeowners willing to pay points plus closing costs, conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgages can be locked at below 4 percent. If you’re in the process of buying or refinancing a home in Virginia , it’s a good time to lock a mortgage rate with your lender.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a one-day event slated for March 13, 2012.

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FOMC Minutes December 2011The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from its most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The Fed Minutes are a detailed meeting recap; the companion piece to the more brief, more well-known press release.

As a comparison, the minutes of the last FOMC meeting contained 60 paragraphs and 7,027 words. The post-meeting press release was just 5 paragraphs and 382 words.

December’s Fed Minutes shows Fed members with a positive, cautious, take on the economy.

Recent data suggests that the U.S. economy is expanding, the Fed said, but “strains” in global financial markets pose “significant risks” to the downside. This tell us that the Fed believes its economy-stimulating programs are working, but that officials remained concerned by events in the Eurozone.

The U.S. economy could be impacted by fallout. 

Other meeting consensus included : 

  • On growth : The economy is expanding, despite slowing in “global economic growth”
  • On housing : Data suggests the “depressed” market “could be improving”
  • On inflation : Prices are stable, and remain within tolerance levels

The Fed’s analysis was of little surprise to Wall Street, and going forward, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to keep it that way. The Fed Minutes contained a passage regarding market communication, and how the Fed will be more pro-active about it in the future. 

With the release of its minutes, in a section called “Market Policy Communications”, the Federal Reserve showed its plans to release 4 times annually its economic forecasts, and plans for the Fed Funds Rate. This signals in a shift in Federal Reserve transparency.

The Federal Reserve will begin including the forecast in its economic projections beginning after its next policy meeting, January 24-25, 2012.

Mortgage rates in Virginia were little changed after the release of the Fed Minutes.

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Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishTuesday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

The vote was nearly unanimous for the second straight month. Just one FOMC member dissented in the vote, favoring additional policy stimulus beyond what the Federal Reserve currently provides.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve sais that the the U.S. economy is improving, noting that since its November 2011 meeting, the economy has been “expanding moderately”. The Fed also added that domestic growth is occurring despite some “apparent slowing in global growth” — a nod to ongoing uncertainty within the Eurozone.

The Federal Reserve expects a moderate pace of growth over the next few quarters, and believes that the jobs market will continue to improve, but slowly.

Other potential soft spots within the economy include :  

  1. A slowdown in business investment
  2. A “depressed” housing market
  3. Strains in global financial markets

The Federal Reserve added no new policies at its December meeting, and made no changes to existing ones. It re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate within its current range of 0.000-0.250 percent “at least until mid-2013” and re-affirmed “Operation Twist” — the stimulus program through which the Fed sells Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and uses the proceeds to buy mortgage bonds with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage bonds are mostly unchanged since the Fed’s announcement, giving mortgage rates in Richmond little reason to rise or fall.

Mortgage rates remain near all-time lows and, for homeowners willing to pay points + closing costs, 30-year fixed rate mortgages can be locked at less than 4 percent. If you’re thinking of buying or refinancing a home, it’s a good time to lock a mortgage rate.

The FOMC’s next meeting will be its first scheduled meeting of the new year. The meeting is slated for January 24-25, 2012.

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Fed Minutes

Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its 2-day meeting September 20-21, 2011.

The release shows a divided Fed in disagreement about the current U.S. monetary policy. The group reached compromise for new economic stimulus, however, and maintained its commitment to accommodative interest rates.

Wall Street reacted tepidly to the minutes. Mortgage rates in Richmond worsened slightly post-release.

The Fed Minutes gets less press than the FOMC’s post-meeting press release, but it’s every bit as important. Because it details the conversations that take place among voting and non-voting Fed members at FOMC meetings, the Fed Minutes is an inside-look at the debates and discussion that lead to new monetary policy.

As examples, here are some of the topics covered at the September FOMC meeting :

  • On growth : Economic growth was slow, but “did not suggest a contraction”
  • On housing : The market continues to be “depressed by weak demand”
  • On rates : The Fed Funds Rate will remain low until mid-2013

Then, with Fed members divided on whether the central bank should add new stimulus, it reached a compromise instead, launching the $400 billion “Operation Twist” program. Operation Twist is meant to lower longer-term interest rates, including mortgage rates.

Since Operation Twist began, mortgage rates are higher by nearly 0.375%.

Also noteworthy within the Fed Minutes was concern for an economic slowdown and how the Federal Reserve may react. According to the record, a slowdown may prompt the Fed to introduce its third round of qualitative easing, or QE3. An out-sized stimulus plan would likely lead rates higher.

Nothing will happen until the Fed’s next meeting, however. Chairman Ben Bernanke & Co meet next November 1-2 for a 2-day meeting..

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Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishWednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

The vote was 7-3 — the second straight meeting at which the FOMC adjourned with as many 3 dissenters. Prior to that last meeting, there hadn’t been 3 FOMC dissenters since 1992.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve presented a dour outlook for the U.S. economy, noting that since its last meeting in August:

  1. Economic growth “remains slow”
  2. Unemployment rates “remain elevated”
  3. The housing sector “remains depressed”

The Fed also said that there are “significant downside risks” to the economic outlook, tied to strains in the global financial markets.  

The news wasn’t all bad, however.

The Fed noted that business investment in equipment and software continues to expand, and that inflationary pressures on the economy appear to have stabilized. The Fed then re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate in its current range near 0.000 percent “at least until mid-2013”. This means that Prime Rate — the rate to which credit card rates and lines of credits are often tied — should remain unchanged at 3.250 for at least another 2 years.

Furthermore, as expected, the Federal Reserve launched a market stimulus plan aimed at lowering long-term interest rates. The Fed will sell $400 billion in Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and use the proceeds to buy the same with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC statement has been positive this afternoon. Mortgage rates in Virginia are improving, but note that Wall Street sentiment can shift quickly — especially in a market that’s as uncertain as this one.

If today’s mortgage rates and payments fit your household budget, consider locking in a rate. Rates can change swiftly.

The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day affair, scheduled for November 1-2, 2011.

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Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishWednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

The vote was 7-3 — the second straight meeting at which the FOMC adjourned with as many 3 dissenters. Prior to that last meeting, there hadn’t been 3 FOMC dissenters since 1992.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve presented a dour outlook for the U.S. economy, noting that since its last meeting in August:

  1. Economic growth “remains slow”
  2. Unemployment rates “remain elevated”
  3. The housing sector “remains depressed”

The Fed also said that there are “significant downside risks” to the economic outlook, tied to strains in the global financial markets.  

The news wasn’t all bad, however.

The Fed noted that business investment in equipment and software continues to expand, and that inflationary pressures on the economy appear to have stabilized. The Fed then re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate in its current range near 0.000 percent “at least until mid-2013”. This means that Prime Rate — the rate to which credit card rates and lines of credits are often tied — should remain unchanged at 3.250 for at least another 2 years.

Furthermore, as expected, the Federal Reserve launched a market stimulus plan aimed at lowering long-term interest rates. The Fed will sell $400 billion in Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and use the proceeds to buy the same with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC statement has been positive this afternoon. Mortgage rates in Virginia are improving, but note that Wall Street sentiment can shift quickly — especially in a market that’s as uncertain as this one.

If today’s mortgage rates and payments fit your household budget, consider locking in a rate. Rates can change swiftly.

The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day affair, scheduled for November 1-2, 2011.

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