Omicron worries, Fed tone leave mortgage rates flat for the week

Average mortgage rates flattened over the past week, as a more hawkish Fed tone was tempered by economic concerns from the ongoing pandemic.

The average 30-year mortgage rate was unchanged at 3.55% for the weekly period ending Feb. 3, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey. In the same week one year ago, the 30-year average came in 72 basis points lower at 2.73%.

“The economy lost some momentum in January, leaving mortgage rates unchanged from last week,” said Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac, in a press release. “This stagnation reflects the economic impact of the omicron variant of COVID-19, which we believe will subside in the coming months.”

Rates initially jumped in the middle of the prior week after a monetary policy meeting in which the central bank gave hints that hikes to the federal funds rate were forthcoming and that it would seek to reduce its balance sheet. But after an immediate spike, interest rates headed downward, despite news of favorable economic data.

“The latest surge in COVID cases is expected to slow economic activity in the short term, and even though fourth-quarter GDP growth was strong, much of that was driven by increasing inventories,” said Paul Thomas, Zillow’s vice president of capital markets, in a research blog post.

Although the Centers for Disease Control reported a dramatic increase in COVID cases to begin in 2022, numbers started to subside in the second half of January. The current lull in rate increases the mortgage industry is seeing will likely turn out to be just a temporary phase, Khater noted.

“As economic recovery continues going into the spring and summer, mortgage rates are expected to resume their upward trajectory,” he said.

Data to be released in the upcoming week include labor market numbers, which should provide further clues about the pace of the economic recovery. “The economic data, along with any developments in the situation in Ukraine, could create additional volatility in interest rates,” Thomas said.

While the 30-year fixed mortgage rate remained unchanged, the 15-year edged downwards to average 2.77%, a three-basis-point decrease from 2.8% a week earlier.

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage inched higher in the other direction, climbing to an average of 2.71% from 2.7% seven days earlier.


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