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: Mortgage rates drop amid increased market uncertainty as Russia’s bombardment of Ukraine escalates

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Lucky home buyers will have the chance to lock in low interest rates just ahead of the most popular season to purchase a house.

The average rate for the 30-year fixed-rate was 3.76%, down 13 basis points from the previous week, Freddie Mac
FMCC,
-3.58%

 reported Thursday. One basis point is equal to one-hundredth of a percentage point. It’s major shift from just a few weeks earlier when the average rate for the 30-year loan jumped to the highest level since May 2019, close to 4%.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, meanwhile, dropped to 3.01%, falling 13 basis points over the past week%. The 5-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.91%, down 7 basis points from the previous week.

Markets still expect the Federal Reserve to move forward with an interest-rate hike later this month. On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled he will support a 25 basis point rate hike — the first in a series of hikes this year. He noted that the Ukraine crisis was adding to inflationary pressure, despite the market volatility.

 “It is not going to help at all with supply chains, because ships are not being offloaded,” Powell said.

“‘ While inflationary pressures remain, the cascading impacts of the war in Ukraine have created market uncertainty.’”


— Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater

How mortgage rates respond is not certain. The Federal Reserve controls short-term interest rates, whereas mortgage rates typically track the direction of long-term bond yields, including the 10-year Treasury. Assumptions about the Fed’s interest-rate policy can be baked into the movements of Treasuries and mortgage rates, but other factors also weigh on them.

Currently, concerns surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting geopolitical fallout pushed rates lower, in line with U.S. Treasury yields, Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater said in the mortgage rate report.

“While inflationary pressures remain, the cascading impacts of the war in Ukraine have created market uncertainty,” Khater said.

The relief from rising interest rates may end up being short-lived, but it’s a rare silver lining for home buyers as they stare down what looks set to be another competitive spring home-buying season. Data from Realtor.com indicates that the typical home is currently selling within 47 days on average, with listing prices for homes hitting record highs as of February. And although mortgage rates have fallen, they still remain well above the lower levels seen a year ago.

“Surging prices and higher rates are creating challenges for first-time buyers looking for a home, causing them to make difficult choices in light of higher monthly costs for food, gasoline, clothing, cars and health care,” said George Ratiu, manager of economic research at Realtor.com.

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