Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mortgage Rate Outlook

Oct. 2, 2009 -- With September now
behind us, stock markets started
October in a fashion similar to other
Octobers: they sold off to some
degree. After a pretty good third
quarter's profits were booked, at
least some of those gains from
equity sales have been stashed
back into Treasuries, driving yields
down. This is turn is pressuring
mortgage rates down to the lows of
earlier this year.

The overall average for 30-year
FRMs declined by almost a tenthpercent
this week, and HSH's FRMI
closed Friday with five-day average
of 5.40%. Five-one hybrid ARMs
also eased back, shedding eight
basis points to close the national
survey at 4.74%. At 5.07%, conforming
30-year FRMs sported their
lowest average rate since the late
March to late May period gave us
nine consecutive weeks just over
(and under) the 5% mark.

A bright spot was Construction
Spending rose by 0.8%, its second
positive reading of the year. More
impressive was the 4.7% rise in
spending for residential projects,
which was more than enough to
offset drags from the troubled commercial
sector (-0.1%) and the 1.1%
drop in the public sector. Stimulus
money isn't making it out to lowerlevel
projects all that quickly, and
cash-strapped states and counties
are simply putting projects on indefinite

Low mortgage rates continue to
provide support for housing markets,
and the gains in residential
construction spending could be one
of the keys to getting a firmer recovery
underway. However, credit
conditions remain tight, and while
home prices have begun to firm to
some degree, it may be a long time
until most underwater homeowners
will be able to take advantage of
those low rates to recast their balance

Does October continue to live up to
its reputation as a wicked month for
stocks? To the degree that it does,
mortgage rates should benefit.
Spring lows ignited a fair bit of refi
activity, but building lasting refi
waves requires low (if not continually
declining) interest rates for a
period of weeks, even months. We'll
continue to have low rates, but
significant declines are unlikely. If
you're considering refinancing, don't
hesitate too long or a fickle October
market may catch you napping.

Treasury yields dipped at week's
end, so mortgage rates should start
next week on a softer note.

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