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Rates Hold Steady

Rates Hold SteadyApplications reverse course and rise

June 18, 2004


Just a few weeks before the Federal Reserve Board’s rate committee meets and possibly raises interest rates, rates momentarily froze and mortgage applications broke away from a five-week downturn.

Barely moved from seven days ago, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage average of 6.32% rose by 2 basis points (BPS) and the 15-year went up by 3 BPS to 5.70%, according to secondary lender Freddie Mac. The 1-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) average moved in the opposite direction — slipping 1 BPS to 4.13%.

A majority — 42% — of’s survey participants this week said they foresee rates increasing over the next 30 to 45 days. The rest were equally split among those who think rates will stay relatively the same (29%) and those who predict that rates will fall (29%).

While not much change was seen week-to-week in each of the rates, the advantage ARMs offer consumers over fixed-rate mortgages has dipped over the course of the past month. The 30-year fixed rate stands at the same average it was a month ago, but ARMs, especially with the 16-BPS jump reported last week, have had a lot more movement. The spread between the two rate types over that period has gone from 231 BPS to the current 219 BPS — bringing down the appeal of the ARM.

In their June economic and mortgage market outlook, Fannie Mae economists said that even with the anticipated rise in the federal funds rate target from its current 46-year low of 1% to 2.25% by the end of the year, they expect long-term mortgage rates to “rise only modestly further this year” — by about 50 basis points, which would put the 30-year around 6.8%. Freddie’s latest forecast has it averaging 6.7% by the fourth quarter.

Because ARMs respond more directly to movements by the Fed than fixed-rate mortgages, the advantage of acquiring an ARM could diminish even further. Nonetheless, the popularity of ARMs remains high — the ARM share of total applications edged up from the previous week to 34.7%, which is barely unchanged from the 35.2% share a month ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America (MBA).

The current reported refinance share of total applications of 33.8%.

As far as overall mortgage application activity, MBA reported a 5.6% increase from the previous week, which raised the Market Composite Index to 600.6 and marked the first increase after five-weeks of descending activity. The rise was due to an increase in both refinance and purchase money application activity — the Refinance Index upturned by 8.5% from the previous week when it was reportedly at the lowest level in over two years, and the Purchase Index inched up by 4.0%.

Mortgage applications were piled up almost three times higher a year ago when the 30-year and 15-year were at record lows of 5.21% and 4.60%, respectively, and the ARM had not yet bottomed out at 3.54%.

Coco Salazar is an assistant editor and staff writer for


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