By Jacob Passy
Mortgage rates dropped to their lowest level since October 2016 due to weaker economic data over the past week.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.49% during the week ending Sept. 5, down 9 basis points from the previous week, Freddie Mac /zigman2/quotes/202741363/delayed FMCC -7.61% reported Thursday .
Rates for 30-year home loans have only increased nine times so far this year — otherwise, they have dropped or remained flat from week to week.
The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage moved down 6 basis points to an average of 3.00%, according to Freddie Mac. The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.30%, falling 1 basis point.
Mortgage rates roughly track the direction of the 10-year Treasury note /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y -2.92% . The yield on the 10-year note has generally fallen since mid-August, though this week it began to show signs of a rebound amid growing optimism sparked by planned trade talks between the U.S. and China.
“Mortgage rates continued the summer swoon due to weaker economic data,” Freddie Mac wrote. “While economic growth is clearly slowing due to rising manufacturing and trade headwinds, economic fundamentals are still solid for U.S. consumers.”
‘Mortgage rates continued the summer swoon due to weaker economic data. While economic growth is clearly slowing due to rising manufacturing and trade headwinds, economic fundamentals are still solid for U.S. consumers.’
The Federal Reserve released its latest edition of the Beige Book, its periodic commentary on the state of the economy, on Wednesday. Although the Fed’s language painted a fairly rosy picture of the economy, most downside risks persist. As a result, many analysts expect the Fed to cut interest rates by 25 basis points when it meets later this month.
“If there were some sense among Fed staffers that the rate cut should be postponed, they certainly did not establish a defense of that position in this Beige Book,” Ward McCarthy and Thomas Simons, Jefferies’ chief financial economist and senior money market economist, wrote in a research note Wednesday.
St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard has gone further than some of his other colleagues, arguing that a 50-basis-point trimming may be what’s needed to keep the Fed ahead of the curve on international trade’s effect on the U.S. economy.
Moves by the Fed don’t directly trigger moves in the mortgage markets, since the Fed manipulates short-term interest rates and not long-term rates like those on mortgages.
However, the Fed’s signals are typically baked into mortgage rates in advance of an expected cut to short-term rates. Therefore, people looking to take out a new home loan can reasonably expect mortgage rates to move downward in the coming weeks as long as the Fed is expected to cut rates.