Rates, Home Prices and the Federal Reserve
January 09, 2019
Mortgage rates continued to edge lower in the latest week to levels not seen since the spring of last year. The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 10 basis points to 4.74% with 0.47 in points. “This drop in rates spurred a flurry of refinance activity – particularly for borrowers with larger loans – and pushed the average loan size on refinance applications to the highest in the survey (at $339,800),” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President.
Home price gains are beginning to ease back to more normal levels after the big increases seen since the housing market recovery began. Black Knight reports that home price growth has slowed in 33 states and in 71 of the 100 largest markets. Black Knight said the West saw the most deceleration with California the hardest hit. Gains of +7% or more year-over-year couldn’t last forever.
The Fed minutes from the December meeting will be released today at 2:00 p.m. ET. The minutes are sort of in the rear view mirror after Fed Chair Powell spoke last Friday and sparked a rally in the U.S. stock markets with his dovish remarks on monetary policy. Fed Fund Futures show a zero percent chance of a rate hike at least through the first half of this year and maybe none at all in 2019, given the current low inflation environment. A dovish tone means that Fed members favor looser, more accommodating interest rate policies. A hawkish policy is the opposite.