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Uncharted Territory

Uncharted Territory

Rates, apps fall

November 15, 2002


Breaking records again, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage took a dip this week — unfortunately, so did mortgage applications.

While rates dropped a week after the Federal Open Market Committee announcement, the near future of mortgage rates is anything but figured out.

In Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, the 30-year averaged 5.94% for the week ending Nov. 15, a decrease from 6.11% last week. That’s a decrease of 17 basis points (BPS) and the lowest the 30-year has been since Freddie started tracking it in 1971. Last year at this time, the 30-year averaged 6.51%.

Nationally, the 30-year was highest in the Northeast at 6.02% and lowest in the West at 5.86%.

Another fall came from the one-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). It averaged 4.09% this week, down from last week’s average of 4.15% — and the lowest one-year ARM since Freddie started keeping track of it in 1984. The one-year ARM averaged 5.06% this time last year.

The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage didn’t do badly, either. This week’s 5.32% is down from last week’s average of 5.48%. A year ago, the 15-year averaged almost 6%.

The Fed’s rate-cut announcement last week seems like the magic fairy dust in these new record lows. But while the cut affected this week’s outcome, other factors also played a role.

“The Fed rate cut and Greenspan’s recent remarks that the economy has hit a ‘soft spot’ had a huge impact on financial markets,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie. “Combined with the anticipation that the U.S. could soon be at war with Iraq, market sentiment turned toward the negative, driving mortgage rates to new lows again.”

The upcoming Consumer Price Index report will reveal news about inflation, which will give some insight about where future mortgage rates are going, he said. But “at this point we don’t foresee any dramatic movement in rates one way or the other.”

Alec Crawford, head of mortgage strategy at Deutsche Bank, predicted the same. He said while a few extra borrowers may respond to the new low rate, it won’t significantly affect the big picture.

“The macro-economic impact will be low unless we decline 50 BPS below current mortgage rates,” he said to Dow Jones Newswires.

However, J.P. Morgan strategist David Montano said to the newswire that he expects prepayment speeds to increase through the next three months.

“The refi wave is not showing any signs of slowing,” he said to the newswire.

Turning the issue into even more of a crap shoot, the mortgage experts polled for’s weekly survey couldn’t agree, either: one-third thinks rates will fall over the next 30 to 45 days, one-third thinks they will rise, and the other third thinks rates will remain the same.

“The recent rate cut will have little effect on mortgage rates other than to help keep them low longer,” said Jason P. Flurry, CFP of Planmark Capital Management LLC, a member of this week’s panel. “Eventually rates will rise again, but this latest move ensured that it will be later rather than sooner.”

Mortgage loan applications, which are reported a week behind Freddie’s 10-year, don’t share the spotlight of good news this week. On its Market Composite Index, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America reported applications decreasing to 992.3 for the week ending Nov. 8. This is a slight 3.7% dip from last week’s index of 1030.5, and represents an almost 6% decrease from last year’s 1055.5 during the week ending Nov. 9.

Friday afternoon, the 10-year Treasury note was down 14/32, raising its yield to 4.07%.

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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