Mortgage Rates Still Rising, But at a Slower Pace
The majority of January was characterized by sharp decline in mortgage rate volatility and the lowest rates in several months, the first week of February has done its best to erase that progress. This is a process that began in earnest after last week’s jobs report, but it continued into the current week. Part of the reason for yesterday’s move toward higher rates was the market’s anticipation for today’s comments from Fed Chair Powell.
Mortgage rates are based on bonds that trade throughout any given day. Bonds respond to all sorts of motivations. Comments from the Chair of the Federal Reserve are among the most reliable examples. Traders just had a chance to get Powell’s thoughts after last week’s Fed announcement on Wednesday. Then, after Friday’s balmy jobs report, market participants were concerned that Powell might have spoken more aggressively about hiking rates if he’d known how strong the jobs report would be.
In today’s comments, Powell allayed those fears at first, and the bond market moved back toward lower rates. But as the interview continued, he kept the focus on the fact that the economy is only in the early stages of showing the signs that it needs to show in order for rates to level off and eventually move lower. In not so many words, Powell may not have added the fuel to the fire that traders were afraid of, but he didn’t do anything to douse the flames.
The result was a gentler uptick in rates compared to yesterday’s example. Yesterday already earned the dubious distinction of ushering in the “highest rates in a month.” Now today just gives that same milestone a nudge to a slightly higher level. In both cases, the average lender is quoting conventional 30yr fixed rates in the mid-6% range. Today’s quotes may even be for the same interest rate for some clients, but with the upfront costs simply being slightly higher than yesterday.