Mortgage rates drop to historic lows

Market concern over the strength of the economic recovery took Treasury yields to new depths, causing both 30- and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages to continue tumbling to historic lows.

The Freddie Mac survey showed 30-year FRM averaged 3.49% for the week ending Thursday, a record low from last week’s 3.53%. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.55%.

The 15-year FRM, a popular refinancing choice, also set a new record, averaging 2.8%, down from last week‘s average of 2.83%. A year ago, the average rate for a 15-year FRM was 3.66%.

Five-year, Treasury-indexed, hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 2.74%, up from 2.69% last week and falling from 3.25% a year earlier.

And one-year, Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 2.71%, up from last week’s 2.69% and down from 2.95% last year.

“The Conference Board Leading Economic Index showed the largest monthly decline in June since September 2011,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said in explaining the interest rate movements. “Existing home sales fell to 4.36 million homes (annualized) in June and represented the slowest pace since October 2011. Similarly, new home sales fell in June to their lowest level since January of this year.”

Home loan analytics firm Bankrate, which surveys large banks, reported the 30-year FRM fell to 3.75% from 3.78%, while the 15-year FRM dropped to 3% from 3.04%. The 5/1 ARM ticked remained at 2.89%.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported mortgage rates for the purchase of previously occupied homes fell to 3.67% in June from 3.78% the previous month. The rate on all mortgages (fixed- and adjustable-rate) also averaged 3.67% in June, down from 3.78% in May.

The average interest rate for 30-year FRM on loans of $417,000 or less decreased 16 basis points to 3.88% in June, according to the FHFA. The rates are calculated from the agency’s monthly interest rate survey of purchase-money mortgages, reflecting loans closed from June 25 to 30.

While falling mortgage rates may seem beneficial to the overall real estate market, analysts with Capital Economics are not sold on the idea that low interest rates are an effective medicine for the market.

“News of mortgage rates falling to fresh lows may have become an almost weekly occurrence, but there’s relatively little evidence that this is translating into stronger housing demand among mortgage dependent buyers,” said property economist Paul Diggle with Capital Economics.  

He added, “The underlying improvement in sales activity remains heavily dependent on investors and cash buyers, who are attracted to housing in part because of low yields elsewhere.”

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