Mortgage Interest Rates on the Move Again … Upward

They’ve been sitting at half-century lows for months now, but that trend appears to have snapped as mortgage interest rates across the board rose again this week. One industry report released Thursday points out that long-term rates have been heading upward for three weeks straight; another says they’ve now hit a four-month high.

Freddie Mac’s latest survey puts the average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages at 4.46 percent (0.8 point) for the week ending December 2. That’s up from last week’s average of 4.40 percent. Last year at this time, 30-year fixed mortgages were averaging 4.71 percent, according to the GSE.

Freddie’s results are based on data gathered from about 125 lenders nationwide, including thrifts, credit unions, commercial banks, and mortgage lending companies. Rates offered for 15-year fixed mortgages averaged 3.81 percent this week (0.7 point), up from 3.77 percent the week before.

Shorter term mortgage rates also rose in Freddie Mac’s survey. The 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.49 percent (0.6 point), up from 3.45 percent last week. The 1-year ARM came in at 3.25 percent (0.6 point), up from 3.23 percent.

Frank Nothaft, VP and chief economist for Freddie Mac, explained that mortgage rates followed bond yields higher this week after newly released economic data suggested the economy may be stronger this quarter than in the third quarter.

A separate study released by Bankrate Thursday called the latest move upward by mortgage rates “notable,” as they hit their highest mark in four months in the company’s survey. Bankrate’s figures are derived from data provided by the top 10 banks and thrifts in the top 10 U.S. markets.

The tracking firm reported that the benchmark conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 4.71 percent (0.36 point) this week. That’s up pretty significantly from 4.58 percent reported by the company last week.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage increased from 3.97 percent to 4.07 percent (0.35 point) in Bankrate’s study. The larger jumbo 30-year fixed rate jumped as well, settling at 5.29 percent.

Bankrate also documented a rise in adjustable rate mortgages, with the average 5-year ARM climbing to 3.74 percent and the average 7-year ARM jumping to 4.08 percent.

Bankrate says the November unemployment report due out on Friday could be the catalyst for the next move in mortgage rates, with evidence of solid private-sector job growth fuel for higher rates.

The tracking company’s regular weekly forecast for mortgage rate indicates that we’ll likely see another increase subsequently. Sixty-four percent of the mortgage experts surveyed by Bankrate expect mortgage rates to rise again over the next seven days.

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