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Mortgage and refinance rates today, Dec. 23, 2021

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Today’s mortgage and refinance rates

Average mortgage rates edged higher yesterday – yet again. But take a step back and the bigger picture shows that nobody’s lost or gained much over recent weeks regardless of whether they’ve floated or locked their rate.

However, mortgage rates today look set to move higher. That’s partly a result of encouraging news concerning the Omicron variant of COVID–19 from three different studies in countries where the virus has been spreading most quickly.

Seasons greetings and a happy holiday to all our readers! Markets are closed tomorrow for Christmas Eve. So we’ll see you again on Monday.

Find your lowest rate. Start here (Dec 24th, 2021)

Current mortgage and refinance rates

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 3.35% 3.373% +0.01%
Conventional 15 year fixed 2.496% 2.53% Unchanged
Conventional 20 year fixed 3.138% 3.167% +0.03%
Conventional 10 year fixed 2.631% 2.702% +0.02%
30 year fixed FHA 3.394% 4.161% +0.02%
15 year fixed FHA 2.593% 3.239% Unchanged
5/1 ARM FHA 2.295% 3.162% +0.04%
30 year fixed VA 2.986% 3.176% +0.03%
15 year fixed VA 2.916% 3.264% -0.02%
5/1 ARM VA 2.5% 2.533% +0.01%
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?

News from abroad suggests Omicron might tend to cause milder symptoms and reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and death for each infected person. And markets are likely to seize on that today, causing higher mortgage rates. Read on for details.

This means I would probably lock my mortgage rate soon if I were you.

And I’m likely to change again my personal rate lock recommendations sometime next week – assuming the news remains positive. But, for now, those remain:

  • FLOAT if closing in 7 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 15 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 30 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 45 days
  • FLOAT 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 climbed to 1.49% from 1.46%. (Bad for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates normally tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields
  • Major stock indexes were 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 $72.95 from $71.18 a barrel. (Bad for mortgage rates*.) Energy prices play a large role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity
  • Gold prices edged lower to $1,801 from $1,793 an ounce. (Neutral 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 – increased to 42 from 33 out of 100. (Bad for mortgage rates.) “Greedy” investors push bond prices down (and interest rates up) as they leave the bond market and move into stocks, while “fearful” investors do the opposite. So lower readings are better than higher ones

*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 rise. 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 24th, 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?

Today

There was some good domestic economic news yesterday concerning gross domestic product and consumer confidence. And there’s been a small avalanche of economic reports this morning. Those were mostly close to expectations. But inflation was running warmer than anticipated.

So it’s been no surprise that mortgage rates have been rising. Or, at least, it wouldn’t have been were Omicron not to have been posing such a large economic threat. Now, this morning, that threat is looking diminished.

But read on. Because it hasn’t entirely evaporated.

Omicron

Public health researchers in countries that have been among the first to experience Omicron have been racing to gauge the new variant’s effects. And three separate teams reached the wire at roughly the same time yesterday. And they all reached largely similar conclusions.

Briefly, if you catch Omicron, you’re likely to experience milder symptoms than with earlier variants. And you’re less likely to require hospitalization or to die.

Indeed, researchers in England suggested that your chances of requiring hospitalization are roughly 40% lower. Which is excellent news.

The problem is that we already know that Omicron is much more transmissible than earlier variants. And if a lot more people are getting infected, then the total number of hospitalizations will be sky–high, even after you allow for that 40% reduction in individual risk.

Meanwhile, things are complicated by differences in vaccination rates between countries. Most European countries have much higher rates than America, as I explained yesterday. And yesterday’s studies showed that a prior infection or vaccination gives much more protection against severe cases than would be enjoyed by someone with neither.

William Hanageof the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health drew an analogy for The New York Times (paywall): “If you are unvaccinated and you have never been infected, it [Omicron] is a little less severe than Delta,” he said. “But that’s a bit like saying you’re being hit over the head with one hammer instead of two hammers. And the hammers are more likely to hit you now.”

Continuing uncertainty

The researchers behind all three of yesterday’s studies stress that their work is preliminary and based on limited data. And those studies are yet to be peer–reviewed. Nothing’s conclusive.

So we’re only beginning to get any focus on Omicron’s threats. And we may have much more to learn as the picture grows sharper.

Mortgage rates

Of course, my opinions about Omicron’s medical and economic threats are no more valid than yours or anyone else’s. And the only opinions that matter to mortgage rates are those of the investors who move key markets.

Judging from those investors’ actions so far this week, markets seem relaxed about Omicron and ready to shrug off its threats. And, presumably, yesterday’s research is likely to strengthen their confidence.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if mortgage rates continued higher, with just occasional falls in response to bad news. But how long the rises will last is anyone’s guess.

Because federal and state governments here may yet have to follow European countries’ examples and introduce some COVID–19 restrictions to protect health providers from overwhelming demand. And such measures – together with natural caution among consumers – would almost certainly harm our economic recovery.

If that happens, mortgage rates will likely head lower again. But will it happen? And when? At this point, your guess is as good as mine.

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. 23 report puts that weekly average for 30–year, fixed–rate mortgages at 3.05% (with 0.7 fees and points), down from the previous week’s 3.12%. But that won’t have taken into account all that week’s rises.

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 Dec. 20 and the MBA’s on Dec. 21.

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

Forecaster Q4/21 Q1/22 Q2/22 Q3/22
Fannie Mae 3.1% 3.1%  3.2% 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 24th, 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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