Mar 262020
 

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By G. Steven Bray

Quite simply, mortgage rates are all over the place right now, and the market is a mess.  Despite conspiracy theories you may be reading on social media, the government isn’t keeping rates artificially high to help Wall Street make a fat profit.  In fact, it’s because of government involvement that rates are as low as they are.

Let’s take a short look back.  It was only about 20 days ago that mortgage rates hit all time lows.  Those lows lasted all of a couple hours one morning – and then rates started moving quickly higher.  I discussed in my last blog some of the reasons that happened. In the simplest sense, it was due to basic economics.  There were a LOT of mortgage bonds to sell due to the record low rates, and there were very few buyers of those bonds due to market turmoil surrounding the coronavirus.  In order to clear the market, mortgage rates shot up over 5% in short order.

Since then, rates have been extremely volatile, falling back below 4% some days, then jumping back above 5%.  But I said the government has been keeping rates low. How does that jive with the volatility?

Well, this weekend, the Federal Reserve basically wrote a blank check – indicating it would purchase an almost unlimited amount of mortgage bonds to restore liquidity to the market.  That means markets can trade on the certainty that there will be a buyer for mortgage bonds. Now, that doesn’t guarantee low rates because the Fed is not setting the rates of the mortgages it buys.  Instead, it allows the market to set rates knowing there will be a buyer.

The desired result – which I think we’re beginning to see – is more restrained volatility.  Thirty-year rates were back below 4% the last couple days for most lenders, and despite continued volatility, have remained there.

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