Mortgage Rates for the week of: February 20, 2012

Mortgage markets worsened last week as the Eurozone moved closer to a bailout agreement with Greece, and the U.S. economy displayed more signs of growth.

In response, mortgage rates climbed last week.

Rate shoppers should not be surprised that rates ticked north. Since mid-2011, weakness in Greece has helped keep mortgage rates low and the same is true for a weak U.S. economy. Wall Street has sought “safe assets” as protection from risk and that’s driven mortgage rates down.

Now, the safe haven buying that served to anchor low rates appears poised to reverse.

Last month, it was shown, consumer spending rose to record levels and the housing market surpassed analyst expectation again. Homebuilder confidence is now at a 4-year high and Single-Family Housing Starts topped one-half million units for the second straight month.

Conforming mortgage rates in Idaho rose for the first time in a month last week. Unfortunately, few shoppers knew because Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey failed to capture the change. The survey deadline was Tuesday. Rates started rising Wednesday morning.

Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey put the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage unchanged at 3.87% for borrowers willing to pay 0.8 discount points plus a full set of closing costs.

Rates are higher today.

Beyond Greece and the U.S. economy, inflation is another reason mortgage rates are up. Inflation is the enemy of mortgage rates and, an on annual basis, the core Consumer Price Index registered 2.3% — it’s highest reading since 2008. The Fed expects inflation to ease later this year but if gas prices stay high, the Fed’s forecast may be wrong.

This week is holiday-shortened. Look for Greece to dominate headlines (again) and watch for housing data toward the end of the week. Existing Home Sales is released Wednesday. New Home Sales is released Friday.

For now, mortgage rates remain low. It’s a safe time to lock a long-term rate.

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