Freddie Mac Mortgage Interest Rates Rise, Purchase Activity Remains Low

According to Freddie Mac's latest survey, mortgage interest rates rose slightly this weekAccording to Freddie Mac’s latest survey, mortgage interest rates increased this week on positive employment numbers and higher bond yields.

Mortgage interest rates rose across the board, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) released Thursday. Despite the increase, rates remain low overall.

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) has seen mortgage interest rates below four percent for 15 consecutive weeks.

Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac, attributes the rise in rates to positive jobs data and increasing bond yields.

“The economy gained 227,000 jobs, above the market consensus forecast, and revisions added another 61,000 to January and December. Job growth over the last six months was the strongest since 2006. In addition, the Federal Reserve’s March 13th policy committee announcement noted that it anticipates the unemployment rate will decline gradually toward levels that it judges to be consistent with its mandate to achieve maximum employment with stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates.”

Interest rates for the week ending March 15, 2012 are as follows:

  • 30-year FRM rates averaged 3.92 percent, up from the week previous when they averaged 3.88 percent. Last year at this time, a 30-year FRM averaged 4.76 percent.
  • 15-year FRM rates averaged 3.16 percent, up from last week when they averaged 3.13 percent. One year ago, the same mortgage interest rates averaged 3.97 percent.
  • Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) rates averaged 2.83 percent for the week, up from last week’s average of 2.81 percent. At this time last year, a five-year ARM averaged 3.57 percent.
  • One-year Treasury-indexed ARM rates averaged 2.79 percent this week, up from last week when the same rate averaged 2.73 percent. Last year at this time, a one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 3.17 percent.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the low mortgage interest rates have had little effect on homebuyers. “Purchase activity remains subdued and within the narrow range we have seen since the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit in 2010,” said Michael Fratantoni, vice president of research and economics at the MBA.

Refinance application also fell last week, due in part to the slight uptick in mortgage interest rates. “Although interest rates were unchanged on average, they trended up through the course of the week, and this likely discouraged many potential refinance applicants,” Fratantoni noted.

The status of Freddie Mac itself may also have potential homebuyers nervous. Just last week, the GSE announced it would need another bailout from the Treasury, this one totaling $146 million.

And it may need more: Freddie Mac’s financial results show it expects to request more money as changes in home prices, interest rates and mortgage security prices put pressure on the company’s finances.


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