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Freddie Mac: February forecast hints at a mortgage market slowdown

Freddie predicts lower mortgage rates will decelerate growth of total home sales

This year’s mortgage market is projected to  grow modestly, as both mortgage and interest rates slide further, according to Freddie Mac’s February Forecast.

According to the government sponsored enterprise, U.S. GDP growth will fall to 2.5% in 2019, edging down to 1.8% come 2020. However, Freddie predicts the labor market will remain strong despite these economic headwinds.

Employment, which has been sitting at record highs, is forecasted to retreat slightly to 3.6% in 2019 before returning to a more sustainable long-term rate of 3.9% by 2020, according to the company.

Notably, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate is expected to average 4.6% this year, eventually rising to 4.9% in 2020.

“We expect single-family mortgage originations to increase 2.6% to $1.69 trillion in 2019 and remain around that level in 2020,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sam Khater said. “With mortgage rates easing up since the end of 2018, we revised up our forecast of the refinance share of originations to 27% and 24% in 2019 and 2020, respectively.”

Freddie also notes housing starts will fall well below long-run demand, increasing to 1.29 million units this year and 1.36 million units next year.

That being said, lower mortgage rates are expected to decelerate growth of total home sales, as they inch forward to 6.10 million in 2019 and to 6.12 million in 2020, according to Freddie.  

For the remainder of 2019, single-family mortgage originations are expected to move forward 2.1% equating $1.68 trillion. Freddie says this will also be the similar rate in the following year.

Lastly, the GSE highlights that in the fourth quarter of 2018, its house price index fell 0.7%. However, Freddie expects home prices will increase 4.1% and 2.8% in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

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