Mortgage Rates are about to rise

While the 30-year Fixed Rate Mortgage rate increased this week from 3.49% to 3.56%, the yield on the 10-year Treasury (10T), which tends to drive the rate on the 30-year Fixed Rate Mortgage (FRM), jumped sharply later in the week and this will likely lead to a sharper increase in the FRM reported by Freddie Mac next Thursday.

The FRM rate is a premium – or spread – to the yield on the US Government’s 10- year Treasury Note. That in turn is influenced by two major factors: the outlook for the economy (expanding businesses invest creating demand for money) and geopolitical events – the US dollar and US Treasuries are seen as a safe haven during times of uncertainty.

In general terms, the yield on 10T moves more quickly than does the FRM rate, so that when interest rates move sharply lower- often driven by geopolitical events – it takes a while before the spread returns to its normal level. But it always does.

Two weeks ago, I wrote: “Currently, the spread is 2.08%, or some 0.35% above the average of 1.73% since 2005. History suggests that either the yield on the 10T is going to rise or the FRM rate fall.” At that time the 10T yielded 1.50% and the FRM was 3.58%. By this Thursday’s date, the yield on 10T had jumped to 1.79% while the FRM was just slightly lower at 3.56% compared with 3.58%.  The spread has dropped from 2.08% to 1.77%.

Why have interest rates jumped?
In the words of’s Market Trends, an excellent summary of the week’s economic and mortgage activity: “Reasonable economic date here in the U.S., rising optimism that some sort of trade deal between the U.S. and China will get at least worked on (if not necessarily worked out) and new or (or new and) expanded stimulus by central banks around the world are having predictable effect. While rates set by fiat (defined as a formal authorization, proposition or decree) are being cut by central banks (and the US Federal Funds rate will very probably be cut this week – AO) market interest rates are moving in the other direction.”

“Why would this be the case? Several reasons. First, perhaps the largest cause of the global economic slowdown has been the continued escalation of tariffs between the U.S. and China, which has disrupted supply chains and slowed economies that heavily depend on such trade for growth. If any sort of deal may get done, or even simply instituting delays and using softer rancor (as is the case at the moment) has seen investors shift some funds out of the safe haven of bonds and back into riskier (but potentially more profitable) equities. As such, these moves put upward pressure on yields.

Recently I wrote: “The best outcome for both the US and the rest of the world would be an end to the tariff war, which would lead to renewed confidence, increased capital spending and continued economic growth. This, in turn, would increase the demand for money and lead to higher interest rates and higher mortgage rates. Higher rates would, in fact, be a positive sign for both the economy and the housing market.”

Last week was a positive one and interest rates responded accordingly. As the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China will be celebrated on October 1, it would be reasonable to expect only positive news between now and then. But the longer term issues remain to be resolved.

Andrew Oliver
Market Analyst | Team Harborside |

Sagan Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty
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