Mortgage Rates Remain Exceptionally Stubborn Ahead of Fed

It’s a tale as old as time for those who closely follow the day to day gyrations in the mortgage market.  Bond volatility forces lenders to raise rates fairly quickly.  Lenders then wait for market gains AND stability before adjusting rates back toward previous levels.  Even then, rates remain slightly higher than the bond market says they should be.

All of the above is especially true when there’s a known event on the horizon with the power to drastically increase market volatility.  Wednesday afternoon brings just such an event in the form of the latest policy announcement from the Fed.

There is zero percent chance of a rate hike or policy change from the Fed tomorrow.  Instead, market participants are curious to see how the Fed will refine its recently more hawkish tone–one that’s almost exclusively responsible for the rapid rate spike in January as well as some of the stock market swan dive.

The stock drama is top of mind for investors, given that January is on pace to be one of the worst months ever in terms of outright losses for major averages.  Some investors feel that the Fed should do/say something to sooth stocks, but if that happens, it would only be a coincidence.  The Fed is not tasked with babysitting the stock market (unless it feels it’s directly responsible for such a high degree of volatility as to impact the safety and soundness of the financial system, and we’re just not there yet).

What does this mean for rates?  It’s a bit of a double edged sword actually.  If the Fed doubles down on its recent campaign of policy tightening, that would be bad for rates in and of itself.  But it would also likely be bad for stocks, and the stock sell-off has created a bit of buying demand for safer-haven bonds.  Bond buying results in lower rates, all other things being equal.  This alone wouldn’t be enough for a major drop in rates, but if stocks remains spooked, it could help rates avoid rising as quickly as they otherwise would be, given the Fed’s policy outlook. 

As for today, the average 30yr fixed rate was very close to yesterday’s levels which were, in turn, close to the previous days.  Things should start to change tomorrow afternoon!

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