Rise in mortgage rates cuts into home buyer demand

Rise in mortgage rates cuts into home buyer demand

Wed, Jul 3 2013

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Expectations the Federal Reserve will slow its economic stimulus program by the end of the year pushed mortgage rates higher last week, sapping demand from potential home buyers, data from an industry group showed on Wednesday.

Rates measured by the Mortgage Bankers Association jumped to the highest level since July 2011, which also cut into refinance activity. The share of refinance applications fell to the lowest level in more than two years.Interest rates on fixed 30-year mortgage surged 12 basis points to average 4.58 percent in the week ended June 28, the MBA said.

“At these rates, many fewer homeowners have an incentive to refinance,” Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s vice president of research and economics, said in a statement.

“Purchase application volume also declined, but not nearly to the same extent, as affordability remains strong.”

However, a separate report from mortgage financier Freddie Mac, covering the week ending July 3, showed average rates for 30-year mortgages heading slightly lower. Market concern about an early reduction of Fed stimulus eased somewhat during the period, an economist said.

Rates have been rising since early May, with the increase accelerated by comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last month that the central bank expects to wind down the pace of its quantitative easing program later this year if the economy improves as expected.

The Fed has been buying $85 billion a month in bonds and mortgage-backed assets to keep borrowing costs low and stimulate economic growth. The historically low mortgage rates have helped lure in buyers as the housing market gets back on its feet.

The recent higher cost of mortgages has raised concerns that the increase could dampen demand and slow the housing recovery, though most economists do not expect it to be derailed. Even with the increase, rates remain historically low.

While the rise in rates had appeared to cause some potential buyers to get into the market earlier in June, MBA’s seasonally adjusted index of loan requests for home purchases decreased 3.1 percent last week.

Refinancing activity was hit much harder and the index tumbled 15.6 percent last week. The refinance share of total mortgage activity slumped to 64 percent of applications from 67 percent the week before. It was the lowest level since May 2011.

The overall index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, slid 11.7 percent.

The survey covers over 75 percent of U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, according to MBA.

The Freddie Mac report showed average 30-year fixed rate mortgages for the week ending July 3 falling to 4.29 percent from 4.46 percent last week. At this time last year the rate averaged 3.62 percent.

The Primary Mortgage Market Survey also showed that the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.39 percent this week, down from last week’s average of 3.50 percent.

“Fixed mortgage rates fell over the holiday week as market concerns over the timing of the Federal Reserve’s pullback in bond purchases eased somewhat,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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