Mortgage rates sag on economic woes

Demand for purchase loans unchanged from a year ago

News that the unemployment rate rose in June and fears that an economic recovery could be delayed or derailed helped push mortgage rates down this week, with rates at or near lows for the year.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.51 percent, with an average 0.7 point for the week ending July 14, Fannie Mae said in releasing the results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

That’s down from 4.6 percent last week and just a hair above the 2011 low of 4.49 percent seen in the first week of June. The 30-year mortgage hit an all-time low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971 of 4.17 percent during the week ending Nov. 11, 2010, before climbing to a 2011 high of 5.05 percent in February.

"Long-term bond yields and mortgage rates fell this week following a weak employment report," said Frank Nothaft, Fannie Mae’s chief economist.

"The economy added 18,000 jobs in June, well below the market consensus forecast, and the unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, the highest since December 2010. In addition, employee wages stagnated. These factors may lead to less consumer spending, which … reduces the threat of inflation in the near term."

Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgage loans averaged 3.65 percent with an average 0.6 point — a new 2011 low — down from 3.75 percent last week and 4.06 percent a year ago. Rates on 15-year fixed-rate loans hit an all-time low, in records dating back to 1991, of 3.57 percent in November, before climbing to a 2011 high of 4.29 percent in February.

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Rates on 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 3.29 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 3.3 percent last week and 3.85 percent a year ago. After hitting a 2011 high of 3.92 percent in February, rates on 5-year ARM loans fell to an all-time low in records dating to 2005 of 3.22 percent during the week ending June 30.

The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.95 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from 3.01 percent last week and 3.74 percent a year ago. That ties a 2011 low last seen in June, after 1-year ARM loans fell from a high for the year of 3.4 percent in February.

Looking back a week, a separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed that requests to refinance were down sharply from a year ago — most borrowers who are eligible to refinance have already done so — but demand for purchase loans held steady.

During the week ending July 8, applications for purchase loans were down 2.6 percent from the previous week, but about the same as a year ago. The survey included an adjustment to account for the Fourth of July holiday.

Applications for refinancings were down 6.2 percent from the previous week and 42.1 percent from a year ago.

In a June 15 forecast, MBA economists said they expected rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to average 4.9 percent during the third quarter and 5.2 percent during the final three months of the year. The forecast predicts a gradual rise in rates next year, to an average 5.7 percent during fourth-quarter 2012.


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