Gauges of mortgage applications to buy and refinance a home have fluctuated in recent weeks, following several months of fairly steady drops, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Separate data show that the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was about 4.4% in mid-August. The following week the rate jumped to 4.58%, and then declined to 4.51% by the end of the month, according to federally controlled mortgage buyer Freddie Mac FMCC .
The recent interest- rate gyration illustrates a point of frustration for borrowers: it’s tough to time the market. Spurred by uncertainty and rising rates, there’s evidence that some buyers are rushing into the market for fear that their dream home will become even pricier if they wait to buy.
Markets have been trying to figure out when the Federal Reserve could start tapering its massive bond-buying program that has supported low rates, and economists say an announcement could come as early as this month. But central bankers are looking at both positive and negative reports, making it tough to figure out whether the Fed will see conditions as healthy enough to start contracting its program.
While a trend in layoffs is near the lowest level in almost six years, sales of new homes recently slumped to the slowest pace since 2012. The country’s key jobs report for August will be released Friday, and economists polled by MarketWatch expect the U.S. Department of Labor to report that employers added 170,000 to nonfarm payrolls, slightly up from 162,000 in July.
While housing is expected to continue to add to economic growth this year, officials are carefully watching for any indications that rising mortgage rates are taking an unexpectedly large toll on the market.
Although mortgage applications haven’t moved much in recent weeks, they are still far below levels in early May, when rates started rising. Since early May, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has increased almost 1.2 points. Over that period, applications to refinance a home dropped 63%, while mortgage applications for a home purchase declined 15%.
More articles at Jim Clooney