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Mortgage and refinance rates today, Dec. 16, 2021

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Today’s mortgage and refinance rates

Average mortgage rates edged higher yesterday, following news from the Federal Reserve. They’d have probably gone higher had the Fed not signaled its intentions well in advance of its announcement.

First thing this morning, it was looking as if mortgage rates today might be unchanged or barely changed. But that could turn out differently as the day progresses.

Find your lowest rate. Start here (Dec 16th, 2021)

Current mortgage and refinance rates

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 3.302% 3.323% +0.01%
Conventional 15 year fixed 2.548% 2.582% Unchanged
Conventional 20 year fixed 3.19% 3.227% +0.02%
Conventional 10 year fixed 2.625% 2.696% -0.01%
30 year fixed FHA 3.301% 4.067% +0.01%
15 year fixed FHA 2.528% 3.133% -0.14%
5/1 ARM FHA 2.309% 3.148% -0.02%
30 year fixed VA 3.222% 3.419% +0.03%
15 year fixed VA 3.032% 3.381% +0.16%
5/1 ARM VA 2.5% 2.513% -0.03%
Rates are provided by our partner network, and may not reflect the market. Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.

Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

So, the Federal Reserve’s decision yesterday to cut its COVID–19 stimulus program sooner than planned created only a small rise in average mortgage rates. I’d normally expect those rates to resume their gentle upward drift.

But the impact of the Fed’s announcement may be short–lived. That depends on the effects the Omicron vaccine has on the American economy. More on that below.

Because I’m financially cautious, my personal rate lock recommendations are:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • LOCK if closing in 45 days
  • LOCK if closing in 60 days

>Related: 7 Tips to get the best refinance rate

Market data affecting today’s mortgage rates

Here’s a snapshot of the state of play this morning at about 9:50 a.m. (ET). The data, compared with roughly the same time yesterday, were:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasury notes inched lower to 1.43% from 1.45%. (Good for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates normally tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields
  • Major stock indexes were mostly higher soon after opening. (Bad for mortgage rates.) When investors are buying shares they’re often selling bonds, which pushes prices of those down and increases yields and mortgage rates. The opposite may happen when indexes are lower. But this is an imperfect relationship
  • Oil prices rose to $71.35 from $69.82 a barrel. (Bad for mortgage rates*.) Energy prices play a large role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity
  • Gold prices increased to $1,791 from $1,766 an ounce. (Good for mortgage rates*.) In general, it is better for rates when gold rises, and worse when gold falls. Gold tends to rise when investors worry about the economy. And worried investors tend to push rates lower
  • CNN Business Fear & Greed index – Unavailable at the time of publication

*A change of less than $20 on gold prices or 40 cents on oil ones is a fraction of 1%. So we only count meaningful differences as good or bad for mortgage rates.

Caveats about markets and rates

Before the pandemic and the Federal Reserve’s interventions in the mortgage market, you could look at the above figures and make a pretty good guess about what would happen to mortgage rates that day. But that’s no longer the case. We still make daily calls. And are usually right. But our record for accuracy won’t achieve its former high levels until things settle down.

So use markets only as a rough guide. Because they have to be exceptionally strong or weak to rely on them. But, with that caveat, mortgage rates today might hold steady or nearly steady. However, be aware that “intraday swings” (when rates change direction during the day) are a common feature right now.

Find your lowest rate. Start here (Dec 16th, 2021)

Important notes on today’s mortgage rates

Here are some things you need to know:

  1. Typically, mortgage rates go up when the economy’s doing well and down when it’s in trouble. But there are exceptions. Read ‘How mortgage rates are determined and why you should care
  2. Only “top–tier” borrowers (with stellar credit scores, big down payments and very healthy finances) get the ultralow mortgage rates you’ll see advertised
  3. Lenders vary. Yours may or may not follow the crowd when it comes to daily rate movements – though they all usually follow the wider trend over time
  4. When daily rate changes are small, some lenders will adjust closing costs and leave their rate cards the same
  5. Refinance rates are typically close to those for purchases. And a recent regulatory change has narrowed a gap that previously existed

So a lot is going on here. And nobody can claim to know with certainty what’s going to happen to mortgage rates in coming hours, days, weeks or months.

Are mortgage and refinance rates rising or falling?

Omicron

I follow a lot of European news coverage. And, there, the new Omicron variant of COVID–19 tends to dominate the media. I’m very surprised that the same doesn’t yet apply here in America.

In Europe, Omicron is tearing through countries, forcing governments to implement strict new measures intended to slow its spread. Take the UK as an example. Yesterday, it recorded 78,610 new cases in the previous 24 hours, according to The New York Times (paywall) citing UK government figures. That was the worst ever tally for the nation by some margin.

And the UK has a population that’s roughly 20% of America’s. So, if we saw similar infection rates, we’d be looking at nearly 400,000 new cases each day.

Worse, on Tuesday, the British government’s chief medical adviser told legislators that the Omicron infection rate could be running at 1 million new cases a day in that country by the end of this month, according to The Guardian.

Omicron and mortgage rates

Now, it’s true that we’re not yet sure how medically harmful Omicron is compared with the Delta and earlier variants. And some think it may lead to significantly fewer hospitalizations and deaths per 100,000 cases.

However, if even a tiny percentage of infections lead to serious consequences, that could result in health resources being overwhelmed. A small proportion of an enormous number is still a big number. That’s why many European governments are reacting so sharply.

If Omicron ravages the US in the way it is affecting much of Europe, that would almost certainly inflict significant economic damage. And who thinks that won’t happen? On Tuesday, The Washington Post ran the headline, “Omicron spreading rapidly in U.S. and could bring punishing wave as soon as January, CDC warns.”

Such a disaster is highly likely to bring lower mortgage rates, regardless of what the Fed or anyone else says or does. But we’re not there yet.

For more background, read Saturday’s weekend edition of this daily report.

Recently – updated today

Over much of 2020, the overall trend for mortgage rates was clearly downward. And a new, weekly all–time low was set on 16 occasions last year, according to Freddie Mac.

The most recent weekly record low occurred on Jan. 7, when it stood at 2.65% for 30–year fixed–rate mortgages.

Since then, the picture has been mixed with extended periods of rises and falls. Unfortunately, since September, the rises have grown more pronounced, though not consistently so.

Freddie’s Dec. 16 report puts that weekly average for 30–year, fixed–rate mortgages at 3.12% (with 0.6 fees and points), slightly up from the previous week’s 3.10%.

Expert mortgage rate forecasts

Looking further ahead, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) each has a team of economists dedicated to monitoring and forecasting what will happen to the economy, the housing sector and mortgage rates.

And here are their current rate forecasts for the remaining, current quarter of 2021 (Q4/21) and the first three quarters of 2022 (Q1/22, Q2/22 and Q3/22).

The numbers in the table below are for 30–year, fixed–rate mortgages. Fannie’s were published on Nov. 18 and the MBA’s on Nov. 22.

Freddie’s were released on Oct. 15. It now updates its forecasts only quarterly. So we may not get another from it until January.

Forecaster Q4/21 Q1/22 Q2/22 Q3/22
Fannie Mae 3.1% 3.2%  3.3% 3.3%
Freddie Mac 3.2% 3.4%  3.5% 3.6%
MBA 3.1% 3.3%  3.5% 3.7%

However, given so many unknowables, the whole current crop of forecasts may be even more speculative than usual.

And none of these forecasters had any idea that Omicron might entirely change the models on which they’re based.

Find your lowest rate today

Some lenders have been spooked by the pandemic. And they’re restricting their offerings to just the most vanilla–flavored mortgages and refinances.

But others remain brave. And you can still probably find the cash–out refinance, investment mortgage or jumbo loan you want. You just have to shop around more widely.

But, of course, you should be comparison shopping widely, no matter what sort of mortgage you want. As federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:

Shopping around for your mortgage has the potential to lead to real savings. It may not sound like much, but saving even a quarter of a point in interest on your mortgage saves you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Show me today’s rates (Dec 16th, 2021)

Mortgage rate methodology

The Mortgage Reports receives rates based on selected criteria from multiple lending partners each day. We arrive at an average rate and APR for each loan type to display in our chart. Because we average an array of rates, it gives you a better idea of what you might find in the marketplace. Furthermore, we average rates for the same loan types. For example, FHA fixed with FHA fixed. The end result is a good snapshot of daily rates and how they change over time.

The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.

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