Why are Mortgage Rates Jumping?

Regular readers of this column are aware of the link between the 10-year Treasury (10T) and the 30-year Fixed rate Mortgage(FRM). Over the last several years the spread – the difference between FRM and the yield on 10T has averaged around 1.75% (see table below). So with the 10T yielding 1.15% the FRM should be say 2.9%. Right?

Wrong. Today’s Freddie Mac weekly survey, taken on Monday-Wednesday this week, showed an average rate of 3.65%, up from 3.36% last week and the all-time low of  3.29% recorded two weeks ago.

Why is that? The simple answer is Supply and Demand, a basic economic equation I have been applying to the housing market in recent years. While simple, this is a fundamental of understanding markets – whether for housing, mortgage rates – or toilet paper.

In recent years there have been more buyers – Demand – than sellers – Supply- in the housing market, and this has led to bidding wars and rising prices. In my Recession and Recovery piece I wrote that the imbalance between Sellers and Buyers was quite likely to change in the coming weeks, as some buyers hold off and more sellers come forward.

My hope is that this will lead to a more balanced market when conditions stabilise.

Coming back to mortgage rates, in my Mortgage rates Stabilise post last Saturday I wrote: “Lenders are overwhelmed by refinancing requests and are keeping rates up to slow demand.”

In other words, Demand is exceeding Supply and prices are rising.

I under-estimated the degree to which the quoted mortgage rate would rise in the short-term. This was Freddie Mac’s comment today: “Mortgage rates rose again this week as lenders increased prices to help manage skyrocketing refinance demand. This is expected to be a short-term phenomenon as lenders work through their backlog.”

And here is a very short video from Bankrate explaining what has been going on this week: Why aren’t mortgage rates lower?”.

The table below shows the spread over the last 15 years. Noe that in a previous time of stress – 2008/09 (although for a very different reason) the spread widened before reverting to the mean when conditions stabilised.

I expect the same phenomenon to occur again in due course.

I’ll end with the same Wall Street Journal quote I used to end one of my earlier posts:

“For all the foreboding about the novel coronavirus—foreboding that is justified—it is heartening to see the American people responding in ways reminiscent of the frontier spirit. Most people are doing what they have to do to survive a clear and immediate threat to their lives and communities.”

And I ended: “And that spirit will also determine that the recovery will come.”

As it shall.

Andrew Oliver

Sagan Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty
One Essex Street | Marblehead, MA 01945
m 617.834.8205


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