Mortgage rates hold steady as market signals remain mixed

Mortgage rates have leveled off in the past week, according to data on HousingWire‘s Mortgage Rates Center. The average 30-year rate for conforming loans sat at 7.08% on Tuesday, unchanged from one week ago, while the 15-year rate rose 1 basis point to 6.63% during the week.

There has been considerable downward movement in rates over the past few months after the 30-year rate peaked at 7.58% in early May. This has been sparked by a recent decline in the 10-year Treasury yield, a narrowing of the spread between the 30-year rate and the 10-year yield, and consistency from the Federal Reserve on the policy front.

HousingWire Lead Analyst Logan Mohtashami indicated that he does not expect much short-term movement in rates. He pointed to recent comments from Fed Governor Michelle Bowman, who does not anticipate any cuts this year to benchmark rates.

Bowman is not the only policymaker who shares this view. Last week, 11 of 19 Fed officials predicted one cut or fewer in 2024, a dramatic change from the 10 of 19 officials who anticipated three cuts in March.

Mohtashami noted that the new-home sales report to be released Wednesday, as well as the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) inflation report that comes out Friday, could influence rates this week.

Last week, Mohtashami wrote that mortgage application data is signaling increased demand. Purchase loan applications, in particular, saw positive growth during consecutive weeks for the first time since mid-March. But applications remain down since the start of the year, Mohtashami noted.

“This suggests that we’re not experiencing real mortgage demand growth at high rates and the fluctuations we see in the data are merely rebounds from low levels,“ he wrote.

Mike Simonsen, president of Altos Research, wrote earlier this week that “higher for longer” mortgage rates have taken a toll on home sales. Altos reported that 67,000 new contracts for single-family home transactions were started during the past week, down 2.7% from the prior week and 3.3% than the same time last year.

“The takeaway from the pending sales data is that any growth in sales volume we might have seen early in the year is gone,“ Simonsen wrote. “This is a function of mortgage rates staying in the 7s. There’s just no incentive for buyers to jump now. Unless and until mortgage rates drop, we’re in this holding pattern.“

But Altos data also shows that a large share of homes (36.9%) include cuts to the original list price, a sign that inventory is rising and sellers are having a more difficult time locating a buyer. Simonsen noted that markets on Florida’s Gulf Coast, as well as pandemic-era boomtowns in the West such as Austin, Phoenix and Denver, have seen price cuts become more common of late.

“You have elements like property taxes and insurance costs that are way up, so you have a lot more sellers,“ Simonsen wrote.

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