Mortgage rates helped by the Fed’s moderate stance

By Real Estate News

Mortgage rates had a chance to break to new highs this year, but the Federal Reserve took a moderate tone at the last Fed meeting. We saw the benefit of lower mortgage rates with the last two existing home sales reports, which showed growth. Then mortgage rates rose, facilitating five weeks of negative purchase application data.

As rates were hitting year-to-date highs, the fear was that the Fed would go hawkish in their March meeting, which could push mortgage rates toward 8% and tank 2024 demand. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and — as I said on the HousingWire Daily podcast last week —we dodged a bullet.

Let’s look at the tracker data to see how mortgage rates are impacting the housing data as we settle into spring.

10-year yield and mortgage rate talk

For those of you who have me for the last 12 months, you know how important the 4.34% level on the 10-year yield is for my economic work. A break of this level could send mortgage rates toward 7.5%-8% for spring 2024. Not only did this not happen last week, but bond yields fell during the week. As we can see below, we have held the line once again, but we aren’t out of the dark forest yet.

As we can see in the chart below, the 10-year yield and mortgage rates have made a massive move higher since 2022. However, whenever the 10-year yield falls with duration, as we saw toward the end of 2022 and into 2023, it sends mortgage rates lower, and we can grow sales from these record-low levels.

Purchase application data

Purchase application data really moves on mortgage rates — something we saw in late 2022 and into 2023. As rates ticked up recently, purchase apps were down 1% week to week and down 14% year over year. 

Since November 2023, we have had 10 positive and six negative purchase application prints after making holiday adjustments. Year to date, we have had four positive prints versus six negative prints. What have 2022, 2023, and 2024 shown us? When mortgage rates fall, demand picks up. Imagine a housing market with just 6% mortgage rates or lower — it would be growing like what we see in the new home sales market.