Mortgage rates moved higher from Wednesday through the end of the week. Thursday and Friday were especially abrupt as financial markets hurried to get in position for a potential US/China trade announcement. What does trade have to do with the mortgage market? Quite a lot actually!
Tariffs and general trade uncertainty have been some of the biggest driving forces behind 2019's huge drop in rates. Downbeat economic data and eroding business confidence led investors to put more money into safer havens like the bond market. When demand for bonds increases, bond prices move higher and bond yields (aka "rates") move lower.
Mortgage rates were sharply higher today as the underlying bond market faced heavy selling pressure for a variety of reasons. When investors are more interested in selling bonds, prices move lower and yields (aka RATES) move higher. By the end of the day multiple lenders had recalled their rate sheets and reissued higher rates. The average lender was easily at the highest rates of the month.
Despite all of the above, multiple sources claim rates fell significantly this week and are now at the lowest levels since September 12th. Sadly, that's not true. It's the product of confusion that often happens on Thursdays when Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey is released. The survey mainly reflects lenders' rate offerings from Monday and Tuesday. Because mortgage rates can also move quite a bit on the other 3 days of the week, the recipe for confusion is obvious--especially with the report being released right in the middle of those 3 days.
Mortgage rates moved modestly higher today, but remain very close to the lowest levels in nearly a month. The underlying bond market (which dictates rates) has been somewhat volatile this week on a combination of trade-related headlines and comments from Fed Chair Powell. Traders also have an eye on recent market trends in conjunction with this week's bond market auctions.
All of the above have added up to plenty of back and forth movement, but no sustained trend in one direction or the other. Even then, we're not talking about huge swings for the average mortgage lender. Most prospective borrowers would barely see a detectable difference from one day to the next. Eventually, that will start to change when the next bout of momentum sets in.
Mortgage rates were slightly lower today despite some volatility in the underlying bond market. Rates have generally been moving lower recently, but the trend of improvement looked like it might have been running into some resistance yesterday. While today's drop isn't big enough to suggest complacency, it does make a case for slightly less defensiveness in the short term.
In the bigger picture, however, it's good to keep in mind that rates are the lowest they've been in almost a month. Early September was still a bit better, but those were the lowest rates in more than 3 years.
Volatility remains a risk as every update regarding a potential trade deal seems to have an easy time pushing the bond market around. When bonds improve or deteriorate enough during any given day, lenders can issue mid-day changes to mortgage rate quotes. It's a good idea for consumers to have a gameplan about locking vs floating with their mortgage professional of choice.
Mortgage rates moved lower every week for the past 3 weeks. They covered a respectable amount of ground during that time and ultimately erased most of September's damage by Friday afternoon.
In outright terms, September's weakness pushed the average 30yr fixed rate quote roughly 3/8ths of a percentage point (.375%) higher. The past 3 weeks have helped to claw back roughly 0.25% of that.
Because of that relatively decent and relatively sustained winning streak, there's a risk that rates will hesitate to make any further improvements this week. Today's modest weakness serves as a softly-worded warning to that effect, but we'd need to see several more days of higher rates in order to confirm that sort of upward momentum. As of today, it's a risk to keep an eye on.