Mortgage rates jump to 6.32%

Feb 17, 2023, 11:42 AM | Updated: Feb 18, 2023, 2:53 pm

(CNN) — Mortgage rates climbed higher for the second consecutive week, following four weeks of declines. Inflation is running hotter, making rates more volatile, with the expectation that they will move in the 6% to 7% range over the next few weeks.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.32% in the week ending Feb. 16, up from 6.12% the week before, according to data from Freddie Mac released Thursday. A year ago, the 30-year fixed-rate was 3.92%.

After climbing for most of 2022, mortgage rates had been trending downward since November, as various economic indicators indicated inflation may have peaked. But a stronger-than-expected jobs report and a Consumer Price Index report that showed inflation is only moderately easing suggest the Federal Reserve could continue hiking its benchmark lending rate in its battle against inflation.

Inflation is keeping mortgage rates volatile, said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

“The economy is showing signs of resilience, mainly due to consumer spending, and rates are increasing,” Khater said. “Overall housing costs are also increasing and therefore impacting inflation, which continues to persist.”

The average mortgage rate is based on mortgage applications that Freddie Mac receives from thousands of lenders across the country. The survey includes only borrowers who put 20% down and have excellent credit. Many buyers who put down less money upfront or have less than ideal credit will pay more than the average rate.

Inflation cooling, but still hot

Investors are digesting the latest economic data, said George Ratiu, manager of economic research.

The Fed does not set the interest rates that borrowers pay on mortgages directly, but its actions influence them. Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds, which move based on a combination of anticipation about the Fed’s actions, what the Fed actually does and investors’ reactions. When Treasury yields go up, so do mortgage rates; when they go down, mortgage rates tend to follow.

“While the Fed signaled that it will continue to raise rates this year, the moves are expected to come in 25 basis point increments, a less aggressive tightening than what we saw in 2022,” Ratiu said. “The central bank is acknowledging that it sees its monetary actions having a tangible effect on inflation. The CPI data out this week seems to confirm the bank’s views.”

At the same time, he said, many companies expect the economy will enter a recession as a result of the Fed’s rate hikes, even in the face of data pointing to continued resilience.

“This expectation is becoming more visible in the growing number of companies resorting to layoffs as a hedge against a potential economic slowdown,” he said. “People who are laid off pull back on spending, and even those who are still employed may begin to do the same due to worries about losing their job, thus potentially sending consumer spending into a downward spiral.”

Home buyers should expect rates to remain elevated

For home buyers, the cost of financing a home is expected to go up.

Already, rates have been climbing in recent weeks, leading to a drop in mortgage applications. Last week, applications fell 7.7% from one week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Buyers are proving to be interest rate sensitive, according to MBA.

“Purchase applications dropped to their lowest level since the beginning of this year and were more than 40% lower than a year ago,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s vice president and deputy chief economist. “Potential buyers remain quite sensitive to the current level of mortgage rates, which are more than two percentage points above last year’s levels and have significantly reduced buyers’ purchasing power.”

Mortgage rates are expected to move in the 6% to 7% range over the next few weeks, Ratiu said.

For housing markets, he said, “the rebound in rates translates into higher mortgage payments, adding pressure on homebuyers.”

Utah’s housing market

The January report from the Utah Association of Realtors showed homes taking longer to sell and prices declining.

“With more inventory and longer days on market, you’re going to see pricing start to soften a little bit,” said Adam Kirkham, president-elect of the Utah Association of Realtors and managing broker at Summit Sotheby’s.

The median sales price in Utah was $455,000 in January, according to the association’s monthly report. That’s a 6.3% year-over-year decline and a sharp drop from the peak of $539,950 reached in May of 2022.

January marked Utah’s first, year-over-year decline in the median home sales price after 129 months of increases.

“Sellers are having to compete more with other homes that are on the market,” Kirkham said. “They’re having to consider giving concessions to help a buyer cover mortgage costs.”

The realtor group says buyers and sellers are remaining cautious as they wait to see what happens next in the housing market.

“A lot of people are holding because they have very favorable mortgage rates that they acquired when rates were at a lower percentage,” Kirkham added.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL TV’s Ladd Egan contributed to this report.

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Mortgage rates jump to 6.32%