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Tag: bond markets

Rates at 2-Month Highs Ahead of Fed Week

Mortgage rates ended the week at the highest levels in roughly 2 months as investors moved to the sidelines ahead of next week’s Fed announcement.

In other words, investors sold bonds (among other things) and in the bond market, selling pressure means lower prices and higher rates, all other things being equal. 

Despite the poor finish, things started out well enough.  The Consumer Price Index (CPI), a key inflation report, came out lower than expected on Tuesday.  With inflation being an important consideration for the bond market at the moment, the reaction was obvious.  Unfortunately, it was also short-lived.

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Highest Rates in a Week After Surprisingly Strong Economic Reports

Mortgage rates moved higher again today, bringing the average lender to the worst levels since last Thursday.  There are a few exceptions to that due to recent regulatory changes.  Specifically, many lenders made improvements to loans for 2nd homes and investment properties.  That’s the short version.  If you need to background, here’s the long version.

The average loan scenario was unaffected by the regulatory changes and thus was free to react to the day’s bond market weakness.  Bonds responded immediately to a pair of economic reports that came in much stronger than expected this morning.  In general, stronger data pushes bond prices lower and yields (aka “rates”) higher.  

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Mortgage Rates Start Stronger But Moved Higher During The Day

Mortgage rates began the day with promise.  Actually, it was the underlying bond market (which largely dictates mortgage rates) was sending promising signals by apparently building on the bigger improvements seen on Tuesday.  This is exactly what mortgage lenders needed in order to feel comfortable setting rates at even lower levels.

Unfortunately, not long after the day began, bonds started losing ground.  For more than a few lenders, the intraday losses were enough to prompt mid-day reprices (meaning that the initially-offered mortgage rates were replaced by slightly weaker terms.  

A mid-day reprice may or may not be a big deal depending on your perspective.  In most cases, the “note rate” for your mortgage quote will remain the same and only the upfront costs will change.  In even less threatening cases, lenders simply eat the difference as it’s not worth the operational trouble of an official rate change.  Today’s version was on the less threatening end of the spectrum, but nonetheless reinforces the recent sideways momentum in rates and argues against a friendly break toward a lower range.

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Mortgage Rates Falling Back in Line With Best Recent Levels

Mortgage rates started the day modestly lower, but many lenders ended up offering mid-day improvements in response to market conditions.

When it comes to rates, the bond market sets the tone.  Bonds can move for a variety of reasons, but economic data is one of the quintessential inputs.  If the incoming data suggests a hotter economy or higher inflation, rates tend to rise.   The opposite is also true (weaker data = lower rates) as was the case today.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Consumer Price Index for the month of August today. 

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Mortgage Rates Flat to Start The Week

Mortgage rates were fairly flat to start the new week.  This leaves the average lender in the high 2% range for top tier conventional 30yr fixed  scenarios (i.e. 20%+ equity, 740+ FICO, owner-occupied, single-family, detached homes).  This is just a bit higher than the all-time lows seen at the beginning of the year when rates were in the mid-2% range.

There’s disagreement about where we go from here.  The easy answer–and probably the more common one–is that rates will gradually move higher as we continue to distance ourselves from the worst days of the pandemic.  But that answer actually implies its own counterpoint: a lot depends on covid!  Specifically, if the delta-driven case count spike doesn’t quietly subside, and more importantly, if cases accelerate into the fall months, rates could remain in this all-time low territory.  Moreover, if covid ends up translating to new, measurable economic damage, rates could even re-challenge previous lows.

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Rate Reckoning Draws Closer

Rates are dictated by the bond market and bonds are flashing a warning sign about volatility on the horizon. In other words, rates look like they’re ready to make a bigger move in the near future, for better or worse.

This isn’t readily apparent at first glance–especially when it comes to mortgage rates (which are still very close to all-time lows).  Even when we look at a rate benchmark like 10yr Treasury yields, it seems that volatility has died down recently. 

But the absence of volatility is actually the problem.  Rates had been moving decisively higher early in the year as vaccines and fiscal stimulus fueled hopes of a quicker economic recovery.  More recently, political gridlock and the delta-driven surge in covid cases took 10yr yields back in the other direction. 

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Mortgage Rates Improve Again, Making it Back to Last Week’s Levels

Mortgage rates moved lower again today, with many lenders making it back to the levels seen after last Friday’s jobs report.  In week-over-week terms, rates were still decidedly higher at the beginning of the day.  It wasn’t until the afternoon’s 30yr bond auction that the entire bond market improved enough for mortgage lenders to offer mid-day reprices.  A similar pattern played out yesterday.

Why do Treasury auctions matter to mortgage rates?  Treasuries and MBS (mortgage-backed securities–the bonds that most directly affect mortgage rates) are both part of the bond market.  They correlate quite well for a variety of reasons (not the least of which being that Treasuries are the risk-free starting point against which every dollar-denominated bond investment is measured).  As such, when Treasuries have a good day, MBS (and thus, mortgage rates) tend to have at least a decent day.  Today (like yesterday) was no exception.

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Mortgage Rates Lower Today, But Volatility Remains a Risk

Mortgage rates moved lower today after starting the week by jumping noticeably higher yesterday.  Today’s gains came courtesy of global growth concerns early in the trading session and a strong 10yr Treasury auction during domestic market hours.  This morning’s mortgage rates weren’t too much better than yesterday’s, but several lenders offered mid-day improvements after the Treasury auction.  Lenders who held firm would likely improve tomorrow morning unless overnight market drama undoes today’s gains.

Why do Treasury auctions matter to mortgage rates?  Treasuries and MBS (mortgage-backed securities–the bonds that most directly affect mortgage rates) are both part of the bond market.  They correlate quite well for a variety of reasons (not the least of which being that Treasuries are the risk-free starting point against which every dollar-denominated bond investment is measured).  As such, when Treasuries have a good day, MBS (and thus, mortgage rates) tend to have at least a decent day.  Today was no exception.

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Mortgage Rates Begin The Week Slightly Higher

Mortgage rates moved slightly higher to begin the holiday-shortened week.  With Labor day being a bank holiday, mortgage lenders were closed yesterday despite much of the world remaining open.  Futures and overseas markets thus had some extra time to distance themselves from Friday’s latest levels.  In today’s case, that distance was in an unfriendly direction for rates.

The damage is minimal in the bigger picture.  On average, lenders are quoting the same rates seen last week, but with slightly higher closing costs today.  Most of the weakness in the underlying bond market is centered on US Treasuries as opposed to the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that serve as the foundation for mortgage rates.  The Treasury-specific weakness is likely due to the presence of several big Treasury auctions this week in addition to heavy corporate bond issuance (which tends to hurt Treasuries more than MBS).

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Mortgage Rates Relatively Unharmed, Despite Unexpected Moves in Bonds

It was a busy week for economic data with several reports that were pertinent to the housing market. In addition to being the perennial top dog among economic reports, this Friday’s jobs report was especially important due to its role in the Federal Reserve’s decision-making process.

The Fed is widely expected to announce a forthcoming reduction (aka “tapering) of its bond buying program by the end of the year.  If the jobs report had been strong enough, investors thought the Fed might make the announcement a few weeks from now at the September policy meeting.  

 

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