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Rates Hinge on Friday’s Employment Report, Economist Says

Rates Hinge on Friday’s Employment Report, Economist SaysApps off, rates up

February 6, 2004


The direction of rates and applications did not change much after the Federal Reserve Board’s announcement last week, but the release of a government report Friday might generate some movement.

Total mortgage applications decreased 1.5% from the prior week, bringing the Market Composite Index to 855.7, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America (MBA). Last year at this time, the Weekly Mortgage Application Survey indicated applications were stacked higher — as the index stood at 1141.4.

All application indices fell — with the largest decrease seen in the Government Index, down 2.7% to 248.3, said MBA. The Purchase Index fell 1.7% to 444.0, and the Conventional Index followed with a 1.4% drop to 1219.7.

The Refinance Index decreased 1.4% from the previous week to 3250.6, while the share of refinances edged down to 57.0% of total applications, the group said. A year ago, the Refinance Index measured 5621.6 and the share was 73.1%.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage this week averaged 5.72%, rising 4 basis points (BPS) from last week, said Freddie Mac in its latest survey of 125 lending thrifts. A year ago, this rate averaged 5.88%.

The 15-year at 5.03% increased 6 BPS, reported the government sponsored enterprise.

Freddie said the 1-year Treasury-indexed adjustable rate mortgage average of 3.61% rose 2 BPS. Meanwhile, the MBA reported the ARM share of total applications increased slightly to 27.2%. The 1-year ARM competes with the Cost of Funds Index — or COFI — which increased to 1.902% in December, breaking a 17-month descending trend, according to the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.

Mortgage rates remained relatively more stable than bond market yields after the Federal Reserve’s announcement last week regarding the federal funds rate, said Freddie. Although the meaning was the same as the announcement released in December, there were minor changes in the Fed’s wording.

“The prime missing ingredient to sustainable growth is jobs, so January’s employment report, due out tomorrow, may just be the sign that is needed to help the market decide which way to go,” said Freddie’s deputy chief economist Amy Cutts, in a statement.

The industry experts and analysts surveyed weekly by were in the same train of thought, as 46% of them voted rates would remain unchanged and the rest split evenly on whether they would head up (27%) or down (27%). A senior analyst for the site agreed that the “employment report is likely to spark volatility in mortgage rates, with good news pushing rates up and bad news pushing rates down.”

The 10-year Treasury-note closed Thursday at a 4.16% yield and a price of 100 20/32. The figures were barely changed from those reported a week ago.

Coco Salazar is an assistant editor and staff writer for


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