Mortgage Market Weekly Update: Rates Fall Back To 2012 Lows

 |  Includes: KME
by: Julie Young

Average mortgage rates fell for a second consecutive week nearly returning to 2012 record lows reached on July 26. Negative indications for economic growth and Federal Reserve policy decisions continued to influence mortgage borrowing rates during the September 7 week.

The two week descent appears to be in consensus with sentiment from the Federal Reserve's July 31 - August 1 FOMC policy meeting which stated an overall deceleration in the economy's growth in the first half of the year. The FOMC kept the federal funds rate unchanged at 0.00 to 0.25 percent and reported that this target rate was expected to remain through 2014. The Committee also stated it would continue with its maturity extension program through the end of the year.

The same sentiment was expressed in Chairman Ben Bernanke's Jackson Hole speech on August 31 which further reiterated the Federal Reserve's plans to keep interest rates low and continue the use of the maturity extension program to provide lower long-term borrowing rates.

In concurrence with the market's sentiment, Freddie Mac's September 6 Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed a decline in average 30-year fixed-rate mortgages for the week. The 30-year FRM fell 4 basis points from the previous week to 3.55 percent and was down 11 basis points from the August peak of 3.66 percent.

The average 15-year fixed-rate mortgage remained unchanged at 2.86 percent after falling 3 basis points last week.

Despite the decrease in rates, mortgage applications continued to decline as the housing market enters its off-peak season. Mortgage applications fell 2.5 percent for the week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Application Survey. Refinancings also decreased, falling by 3 percent but remaining at 79 percent of total mortgage volume, consistent with the previous week.

The average contract rate reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages on loans less than $417,500 was 3.78 percent, down 2 basis points from the previous week.

The average MBA contract rate on loans greater than $417,500 was 4.05 percent, a decrease of 1 basis point from the previous week.

During the September 7 week, CoreLogic also released its July Home Price Index report and the Commerce Department reported construction spending for July.

CoreLogic's July Home Price Index increased 3.8 percent on an annual basis, reporting the HPI's greatest annual increase since August 2006. The annual increase was driven by price appreciation in July of 1.3 percent.

CoreLogic's September 4 report also predicted additional strengthening in August as well. The CoreLogic Pending HPI expects an annual increase for the August 2012 to August 2011 period of 4.6 percent and a 0.6 percent increase to occur in the month of August.

The Commerce Department's construction spending report showed an annual increase in construction spending of 9.3 percent but stated a decrease in July spending of 0.9 percent. Given the gains reported in housing starts, analysts attribute the monthly decline to a decrease in household spending on private residential projects. Other private residential projects fell 5.5 percent according to data from the report.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.