MortgageMortgage Rates

Mortgage rates cool off ahead of inflation reading

Tuesday’s strong inflation data is likely to reverse this trend

In anticipation of Tuesday’s inflation reading, mortgage rates eased compared to last week.

HousingWire’s Mortgage Rate Center showed the average 30-year fixed rate for conventional loans at 7.08% on Tuesday, down from 7.17% one week earlier. At the same time one year ago, the 30-year fixed rate averaged 6.83%. Meanwhile, the 15-year fixed rate averaged 6.46% on Tuesday, down from 6.5% one week earlier.

The relief in borrowing costs, however, may be short-lived as Tuesday’s strong inflation data is likely to reverse this trend. Consumer prices in February were up 3.2% from a year earlier, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

“The growth rate of inflation has fallen a lot, and the Fed is going to cut rates three times this year,” HousingWire lead analyst Logan Mohtashami said. “This makes bearish American citizens mad because people who don’t want rate cuts or want the Fed to hike rates want to see the Fed create a recession. You can understand their anger with the economy still in expansion mode.”

As long as the economy is expanding, rates will stay elevated. Only a pivot by the Fed or a softening of labor data could change the status quo, Mohtashami added. 

Housing inventory

For-sale inventory has been rising for two years despite elevated mortgage rates. Inventory is now 21% higher than the same time last year. Mike Simonsen, founder and president of Altos Research, wrote on Monday that the available inventory of homes on the market will continue to climb until mortgage rates start to decline.

According to Simonsen, the Fed’s eventual commitment to cut  rates, along with cooling inflation and job markets, are giving homeowners reasons to sell.

In the week ending March 8, there were just over 500,000 single-family homes on the market in the U.S, up 0.5% from the previous week and up 21% from one year ago. Additionally, there were 100,000 more single-family homes on the market than there were in March 2023. 

“Unless mortgage rates fall from here, then by July, we could have 40% more homes on the market than a year ago,” Simonsen wrote. 

Disparities in inventory levels have surfaced at a regional level, with Gulf Coast markets witnessing a resurgence in supply levels that have surpassed pre-pandemic benchmarks. Northeastern and Midwestern markets, meanwhile, have been slower to emerge from pandemic-induced troughs.

The available inventory of unsold homes on the market was slightly more than 500,000 last week, 21% higher than it was a year earlier.

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