Mortgage rates improve on an escalation of trade tensions

Home Loan Rates

Mortgage rates are at the best levels in over a month today thanks to weakness in the US stock market.

Trade Tensions Escalate

Speaking at a NATO summit President Trump commented earlier today that a trade deal with China may not come until after the 2020 election.  Furthermore, he said he may use trade sanctions to punish countries who do not fund a fair share of NATO’s budget.

On the news US stocks declined.  The S&P 500, Nasdaq Composite, and Dow industrials were all down over 2% in midday trading.  Bad news for the stock market is good news for interest rates.

Jobs Report

This Friday we’ll get the latest monthly jobs report.  Analysts are currently expecting +189,000 new jobs to be reported.  A number south of that figure could help push rates back down to 2019 lows.

Locally, job growth in Oregon is slowing but as economist Josh Lehner points out this is mainly due to fewer job hirings, possibly because of tight labor market, rather than layoffs (which is a good thing).

The week ahead

Aside from the employment report the weekly economic calendar is relatively light.  Therefore, I expect mortgage rates to react to sentiment surrounding US-China trade talks and technical trading patterns.

From a technical perspective the yield on the US 10-year treasury note is currently trading at 1.711% which is below several layers of importance.  If yields can close below this level and follow through tomorrow then I expect rates to drift lower.

Current Outlook: floating

Mortgage rates improve as builders pick up pace

Home Loan Rates

I recommended “floating” in last week’s ‘rate update’ and that paid off.  Mortgage rates are about .125% lower today than they were a week ago.

Trade Talks

Interest rates have improved because optimism surrounding US-China trade talks have subsided.  There have not been any new details regarding trade negotiations in the past week and therefore sentiment is turning more pessimistic which is helping US interest rates move modestly lower.

Home Construction

Earlier today the Commerce Department released the latest figures for housing starts and building permits.  The figures were stronger than expected and demonstrate that builders are continuing to break ground on new homes.

Ironically, here in the Pacific Northwest the level of residential construction remains historically low relative to in-migration numbers.  The result is that home prices and rents continue to rise.

The week ahead

Tomorrow we’ll get minutes from the last Fed meeting.  It is expected to show that Fed officials will be on hold from any further short-term interest rate adjustments (CLICK HERE to see why the Fed’s rate cuts don’t matter that much anyways).

On Thursday we’ll get existing home sales from the National Association of Realtors and on Friday we’ll get the latest reading on Consumer Sentiment.

From a technical perspective interest rates appear vulnerable to reverse course and move higher.  However, longer-term the stock market also appears over-bought.  If we see the US stock market pull back that would be very favorable for mortgage rates.

Current Outlook: locking bias

The Fed cuts and mortgage rates don’t budge. Explain that one….

It’s counter-intuitive that when a person blushes, presumably because they are embarrassed, we tend to like them more.

Do you know what else is counter-intuitive?

Home Loan Rates & The Fed

It can be confusing for consumers when the Fed cuts interest rates and mortgage rates go up.

Since July the Fed has made three rate cuts totaling -.75%.  However, consumers should know that the Federal Funds Rate, which is what the Fed controls, has a very obscure purpose (see HERE).

Mortgage rates today are effectively the same as they were when the Fed started this campaign.

Mortgage rate forecast

Nobody has a crystal ball but it’s worth noting that Fannie Mae released its latest forecast for housing and interest rates.  They are predicting that mortgage rates will average 3.5%-3.6% in 2020.  Their forecast includes interest rates with discount points but nevertheless they believe rates will be the same and moderately lower next year.

Trade Talks

Sentiment over US-China trade talks have played a significant role in the direction of the stock market and interest rates recently.  Over the past two weeks the financial markets have been optimistic that the US and China will iron out a new trade deal which has hurt mortgage rates and pushed stocks to all-time highs.

However, last week President Trump disputed progress so it’s tough to know what is going on behind the scenes.  The President is scheduled to speak in New York City today to a group of economists so any news could drive sentiment and influence the direction of mortgage rates.

The week ahead

This week’s economic calendar features the Consumer Price Index on Wednesday, the Producer Price Index on Thursday, and Retail Sales on Friday.  In addition there are Fed officials scheduled to speak through the week.

I recommended locking last week but am going to switch to floating.

Current Outlook: floating

Mortgage rates float higher despite Fed cut

Despite last week’s Fed rate cut mortgage rates have actually increased modestly this week.  Remember, the Fed does not directly control long-term interest rates (including for home loans).

Stocks/ US-China Trade Talks

Optimism surrounding US-China trade relations is fueling the stock market and hurting mortgage rates.  It was reported late yesterday that US & Chinese officials are close to an agreement which will roll back tariffs on $111 billion in Chinese goods.

Analysts are viewing this development as a positive sign that the two sides may be able to create a mutually agreeable trade package.  This is good news for the economy and the stock market but bad news for mortgage rates.

Jobs Report

Last week’s all-important jobs report showed that only 128,000 new jobs were created during the month of October.  Normally, such a soft number would help mortgage rates improve.  However, digging deeper into the report the BLS also revised previously released figures by +95,000 jobs.

Good news for the labor market also equates to bad news for home loan rates.

Housing Prices/ Millennials

CoreLogic released its monthly Home Price Index report earlier today.  The release showed that nationwide homes increased by 3.5% over the past 12 months.  They also forecasted that home price appreciation would pick up steam over the next 12 months and increase by +5.6%.

One reason why home prices are expected to accelerate is the demographics of our population.  Over the next five years over 30 million people will reach the age of 33 which happens to be the median age of a first time homebuyer in the United States.  Even if the economy slows down the trend in population should lend support for home demand.

The week ahead

The remainder of this week’s economic calendar is relatively light.  I expect mortgage rates to continue to react to the stock market and sentiment surrounding US-China trade talks.  Unfortunately momentum is working against us so I recommend locking.

Current Outlook: locking.


US-China trade talks continue to influence mortgage rates

Happy Birthday to Ken Galbraith who would have turned 111 today.  The Canadian economist famously predicted in his 1958 book The Affluent Society that as society becomes more affluent private business would create additional consumer demand through marketing and consequently public goods (i.e. schools & parks) would be neglected.

Seems to me like he was on to something.

US-China Trade Talks

Trade negotiators from China and the US may be onto something too.

There are literally thousands of factors which can influence the direction of mortgage rates.  However, over the past few weeks one story line in particular has dominated.

Trade tensions between the US and China began flaring up in March of 2018.  Since then both sides have taken a tit for tat approach to trade policy.

Over the past few months trade negotiators from both countries have engaged in talks to try and resolve differences.   The financial markets have monitored the talks closely and sentiment has see-sawed accordingly.

When optimism rises that a trade deal will be reached mortgage rates worsen and when pessimism over a trade deal grows home loan rates tend to improve.

Following last weeks meeting between President Trump and China’s vice premier the financial markets are relatively optimistic that a trade agreement can be reached and therefore interest rates are currently cycling higher.

Will they continue to move higher?  Or will optimism wane and help rates cycle back lower?  Time will tell.


Similarly, news out of Brussels is that UK and European leaders are close to reaching a draft Brexit deal which may allow the UK to separate from the EU in an orderly fashion.

Interest rates in Europe are increasing on optimism over an orderly exit.

The week ahead

Although I expect mortgage rates to react to sentiment over US-China trade talks there are a few other story lines I’ll be following.  Third quarter earnings reports have started.  As the stockmarket reacts to the reports I expect interest rates to react accordingly (click HERE to learn how the stock market can influence mortgage rates).

Furthermore, we’ll get the latest reads on retail sales (Wednesday), housing starts & building permits (Thursday), and industrial production (Thursday).

I think rates may worsen in the coming days but I do think they will reverse course at some point.  For those who can wait I would recommend floating.

Current Outlook: neutral

Mortgage rates are better than fluffernutter!

What do you get when you add peanut butter to marshmallow?  Well if you add them to two pieces of bread you have yourself a fluffernutter sandwich and today is National Fluffernutter Day!  Never tried one but if I did I would probably add bacon.  Doesn’t that sound good?

Mortgage Rates

Home loan rates are good this week and are benefiting from a deterioration in US-China trade talks.  The two countries are scheduled to meet this week but on Monday the US Commerce Department added 28 Chinese companies to an export blacklist which will make an agreement all that much harder to achieve.


Last week’s all-important jobs report showed weaker than expected hiring.  Furthermore, a reading of service sector activity also showed weaker than anticipated results. Earlier today, the head of the International Monetary Fund warned that, “the global economy is now in a synchronized slowdown.

Bad news for the economy tends to be good news for mortgage rates.

Federal Reserve

We may learn more about the Fed’s economic outlook on Wednesday when the minutes from their last monetary policy meeting are released.  The financial markets currently think there is an 80% probability that the Fed will cut again at the next meeting scheduled for October 30th.


The economic calendar is relatively light this week which means mortgage rates will likely respond to technical trading patterns and sentiment surrounding US-China trade relations.

Mortgage-backed bonds are currently trading at an important technical layer.  If bond prices can rally and close above this level then it would be a positive signal for rates.  However, if bonds sell-off then it’s likely rates will trend higher the remainder of the week.

Current Outlook: cautiously floating

Mortgage rates worsen in September, what’s in store for October?

I apologize for the absence of ‘rate update’ during the month of September.  I could give you a list of excuses including 40th birthday celebration, loan volume, rainy weather, washing my hair, etc.

But the bottom line is I allowed things to get in my way.  Back on track in October….

Mortgage Rates

The month of September was not kind to mortgage rates.  After reaching multi-year lows at the end of August home loan rates increased by .125%-.375% during the month of September.

The fact that mortgage rates increased during a month when the Federal Reserve cut short-term interest rates has created some confusion amongst consumers.

Bank of Japan

For the past two decades the central bank in Japan has orchestrated “loose” monetary policy in an effort to keep interest rates low and promote economic growth.  Low interest rates overseas helps keep a lid on rates rising in the US.

Yesterday, the Bank of Japan announced they would be less accommodating in the future signaling that they’d like to see long-term interest rates move higher.  This is not a positive sign for US mortgage rates.


We are now 30 days from the scheduled Brexit and an agreement between Britain and the EU remains elusive.  A disorderly exit may help US interest rates improve but there is still time for an agreement to be reached.


This week’s economic calendar is highlighted with the monthly jobs report due out Friday.  Technical trading patterns suggest floating for now.

Current Outlook: floating bias

Home price gains moderate while mortgage rates improve

Every Tuesday I try to explain what is happening in the financial markets that will impact mortgage rates.  The truth is sometimes I highlight factors that do influence interest rates and sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes mortgage rates fluctuate……just because.

Today is National Just Because Day so if there is something you’ve been wanting to do but never done it.  Well…. today is your day.

Mortgage Rates

Two weeks ago I highlighted the divide between fixed mortgage rates and the yield on the US 10-year treasury.  At that time the 10-year treasury yield had fallen by .40% while mortgage rates had only improved by .25%.

As I had expected and hoped, that spread tightened this week as mortgage rates have improved by ~.25% and the 10-year treasury yield has only improved by ~.125%.

Home Prices

The S&P Case Shiller Home Price Index report was released earlier today and showed that home price appreciation slowed in June to +3.1% nationwide (down from +3.4% the prior month).  In Portland home price gains remained at +2.4% year-over-year which is unchanged from the previous month.

Home Prices during recessions

As the US yield curve continues to invert the media is growing more focused on the possibility of a recession in 2020.  Some prospective home buyers are assuming that if a recession does take place that home prices will fall.

However, it’s important to note that prior to the most recent economic recession, which was primarily caused by speculation in housing, home prices in the Portland-metro region actually increased during economic slowdowns.

Therefore, if a consumer is planning to wait for home prices to drop they may be disappointed.


The remainder of the economic calendar this week is light and we expect trading volumes to be low as we head into Labor Day weekend.  Momentum remains on our side so I will maintain a floating bias.

Current Outlook: floating bias

Global yields may help US mortgage rates improve

Global connectedness made a major advancement on this day in 1911 when the New York Times sent the first around the world telegram.

The telegram which simply read, “This message sent around the world” left the New York Times newsroom at 7pm and arrived back in 17 minutes after being relayed via San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon, and the Azores.  Read below to learn how global connectedness is influencing the direction of mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates sideways

After home loan rates improved by ~.25% at the beginning of August they have essentially flattened out for the past two weeks oscillating within a .125% range.

Mortgage rates improved at the tail end of last week but increased over this past weekend.

In the near term it seems like we may see more sideways movement.  However, the longer-term outlook still looks positive for borrowers.

International Pressure

Presently much of the developed world has interest rates which are lower than here in the US.  The Central Bank equivalent target interest rate is 0% or less in the Eurozone, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, and Japan.

There is currently $16.7 trillion in negatively yielding government bonds.

As a reminder, the Fed currently has the Fed Funds rate target at 5.25% and our 2-year through 30 year bonds are yielding between 2-3%.  Think that is high?  At least we’re not in Argentina where the central bank target rate is 58%!!!

Although US interest rates are not likely to go straight down I do think lower yields in other countries will put downward pressure on our interest rates in the months to come.  If a borrower can afford to be patient it probably makes sense to do so.

Jackson Hole

Speaking of central banks, global bankers are meeting this weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the annual economic symposium.  Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to deliver a speech on Friday in which many analysts think he will indicate another Fed rate cut later this year.


Mortgage rates may increase in the near-term is we see US stocks rally again.  However, my longer-term outlook remains unchanged.  For borrowers who remain patient in I think it makes sense to float.

Current Outlook: floating bias

Divide between 10-year treasury and mortgage rates grows

On this day in 1961 East German Soldiers began laying barbed wire and bricks in downtown Berlin.

Over the course of the next 12 years the Berlin Wall was constructed.  The 96-mile long wall made of concrete blocks and barbed wire was meant to divide Soviet controlled east Berlin from US-allied West Berlin.

Speaking of divisions we are seeing a divide growing between mortgage rates and the US 10-year treasury note.

10-Year Treasury Note & mortgage rates

Since August 1st the yield on the US 10-year treasury note has fallen by .40% (from 2.05% to 1.65%).  Normally we’d expect to see 30-year fixed mortgage rates improve by .25%-.375% when the 10-year treasury yield improves this much.

However, since August 1st mortgage rates have only improved by .125%.  The spread between the US 10-year treasury yield and fixed mortgage rates is wider than normal and I expect either mortgage rates to improve further or the yield on the treasury to rise so that the spread normalizes.

Yield Curve

Speaking of the US 10-year treasury note… it is yielding 1.68% as of this morning.  The yield on the US 2-year treasury note is trading at 1.65%.  Should the yield on the 2-year treasury note exceed the 10-year yield then you will definitely hear about it from the media.

The yield curve has not been inverted since 2007.  Going back 40 years every time the yield curve has inverted (1978-1982, 1989-1990, 2000-2001, and 2006-2007) a recession has followed (1981-1982, 1990-1991, 2001, 2008-2009).


Although the most recent economic recession was tough on housing (or was housing touch on the recession?) previous recessions were not.

In fact, during the 1981, 1990, and 2001 economic slowdowns the S&P Case Shiller home price index actually rose during that time.  Therefore, if you are a prospective homebuyer and think homes will get cheaper in the near-term I wouldn’t hold my breath.


I still think (and am hopeful) home loan rates will improve as the spread between the US 10-year treasury yield and mortgage rates tighten.  I will remain in a floating position.

Current Outlook: floating bias