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How Historical Can They Go?

How Historical Can They Go?

Rates reach record lows, apps still strong

February 21, 2003


Mortgage rates took another dip into history while applications remain strong, proving that housing is an energizing zap for the lethargic economy.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged a new low of 5.84% for the week ending Feb. 21, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey. That’s down slightly from last week’s 5.86%, and down almost a whole percentage point from last year’s 6.81%.

“Current record breaking low mortgage rates are keeping demand for housing strong, even as the overall economy stumbles sluggishly into the first part of the new year,” said Freddie’s chief economist Frank Nothaft.

The 15-year averaged 5.21%, also a record low. Last week it averaged 5.26%, and last year it was more than a percentage point above that. Also a record was the one-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgage, which dipped down to 3.81%.

The highest 30-year was found again in the North Central states at 5.94%, and the lowest was in the Southwest states at 5.77%.

“Despite forecasts to the contrary, January housing starts marked a 16-year high according to the Commerce Department,” Nothaft said.”Meanwhile, the Mortgage Bankers Association [of America] (MBA) reports that mortgage application levels are nearly unchanged from the previous week, indicating that housing will continue to prop up the economy for a while longer.”

While mortgage loan applications remained almost flat at 1082.8 during the week ending Feb. 14, they did slump a bit from the previous week’s 1083.1, according to the MBA’s weekly application index, which runs a week behind Freddie’s rates survey. Refinancing activity represented 72.5% of last week’s seasonally-adjusted application index, decreasing from 73.8% the previous week. Last year at this time, the application index reached a mere 530.5, and refinancing represented only a little more than half of mortgage applications.

This is the third straight week that refinancing has slumped, even if slightly.

Art Frank, a strategist from Nomura Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires that those incremental declines are incidental and that refinancing is still robust. Strategists at Salomon Smith Barney, however, said in a research note that the refinancing drop is surprising in an environment of decreasing, record-low rates, the news wire reported.

The panel of experts in this week’s poll have a warm, fuzzy feeling about where rates are headed over the next 30 to 45 days.

Thirty-nine percent of them said rates will go south, and another 39% said rates will remain the same, within two basis points. Only 22% said rates will increase.

“Treasuries will continue to trend lower until uncertainty in market and Iraq stabilize,” said Todd P. Brown, executive vice president of Pinnacle Financial in Melville, N.Y., to

The 10-year Treasury note yield increased to 3.87% during Thursday morning trading, moving the price down $0.21875 to 100 1/32.

Christy Robinson is the editor of She received a bachelor’s degree in news-editorial journalism from The University of Texas at Arlington. Her work has previously been published in The Dallas Morning News.

email Christy at:

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