Please Note: Blog posts are not selected, edited or screened by Seeking Alpha editors.

Mortgage Rates Head Back Down In April

By Salman Aleem Khan, SNL Financial

Mortgage rates headed back down after rising for the first two months of 2013, seemingly encouraged by the Federal Open Market Committee's meeting minutes released on March 20. The FOMC announced that it would continue purchasing agency mortgage-backed securities at a rate of $40 billion per month and long-dated Treasury's at $45 billion per month. Ben Bernanke also noted the fact that the housing industry has strengthened and home prices have gone up in the past few years, renewing faith in the mortgage market.

Interest rates on mortgages at some of the largest publicly listed U.S. banks had some variation. Looking at the average 30-year mortgage rate at these behemoths, BB&T Corp. offered the lowest rate at 3.34%, with Northern Trust Corp. on the other end offering a rate of 4.38%. The median of the group was calculated to be 3.61% within the 30-year mortgage loan category. PNC Financial Services Group Inc. offered the lowest average interest rate on a 15-year mortgage among the top 15 banks, at a rate of 2.51%. Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and Northern Trust Corp. both offered an average rate of 3.13% on a 15-year mortgage, the highest among the group.

The average nationwide rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 3.67% at April 19, down from 4.05% a year earlier. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate had plummeted to 3.51% in December 2012 but then rose again to 3.75% in late March, before the Federal Open Market Committee concluded its meeting. However, the FOMC's impact was not as evident when observing the average national 15-year fixed mortgage rate, as it only fell by 6 basis points to 2.97% from 3.03% in late March.

Alaskans looking for a home will once again find the lowest average rate for 15- and 30-year mortgages in their state. Alaska's average 15-year mortgage rate was 2.71%, and its average 30-year mortgage was 3.48%, as of April 19. However, Alaska's current rates have increased since the last analysis done by SNL in December 2012. Montana and Iowa were tied for second place in 15-year mortgages, as both states offered a rate of 2.75%. Montana also had the second-lowest average 30-year mortgage rate at 3.49%.

Banks and thrifts with less than $100 million in assets posted the highest average rate for a 15-year mortgage at 3.08% while those with $100 million to $500 million in assets posted the highest average rate for a 30- year mortgage at 3.69%. On the other side of the spectrum, banks and thrifts with assets of $1 billion to $10 billion offered the most competitive average mortgage rates with 15-year rates at 2.85% and 30-year rates at 3.60%. Banco Popular de Puerto Rico's average rate of 2% on a 15-year mortgage and 2.88% on a 30-year mortgage were the lowest on offer across the industry.

A similar trend was evident looking at credit unions at different asset thresholds. Credit unions with assets between $100 million to $500 million were seen to have an average 30-year mortgage rate of 3.71%, which increased by 5 basis points for institutions with assets below $100 million. The lowest average 30-year mortgage rate was observed in the large credit unions, as institutions with an asset size of greater than $10 billion offered an average 30-year mortgage rate of 3.42%. Similarly, credit unions with an asset threshold between $1 billion to $10 billion were seen to offer the lowest average 15-year mortgage rate of 2.85%, and the lowest rate within this category was seen to be 2.50%.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.