Mixed Housing Market Sends Mortgage Rates Up, Down

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Freddie Mac released its weekly update on national mortgage rates Wednesday, just ahead of the holiday, and the latest numbers show a divergence in long- and short-term rates.

Fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) got pricier over the past week, with 30-year FRMs rising seven basis points to 4.29%, while 15-year FRMs tacked on three b.p., rising to 3.30%.

Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARMs) headed the other way. Both 5/1 ARMs and one-years shed a single basis point each, falling to 2.94% and 2.60%, respectively. Thus ended three straight weeks of unchanged rates in one-year ARMs.

Commenting on the numbers, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist Frank Nothaft attributed the decline in fixed-mortgage rates to "mixed signals" in the housing market:

The National Association of Realtors reported that their pending sales metric dipped for the fifth consecutive month and was slightly below year-ago levels, presaging a softening in sales near yearend. Nonetheless, house prices rose as homes-for-sale inventory remained tight in many markets [and]... prices in the 20 largest cities increased 13.3 percent annually in September, the highest year-over-year increase since February 2006.

These latter two data points suggest strength in the market that would tend to permit mortgage rates to rise. Longer term, however, the drop in pending sales would suggest weakness that could send rates lower once more. In short, more ups and downs are to be expected.

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