The 8% mortgage-rate shocker!

mortgage rate signIf there's a silver lining to the protracted housing/mortgage crisis, it is that interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage are at their lowest levels since right after World War II -- around 5%.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I came across a Boston Herald article that said, "Morgan Stanley and Freddie Mac have issued warnings about rising mortgage interest rates." But the real shocker was the predicted rates: a range from 6% all the way up to 8%! The reason? "Heavy government borrowing that could drive up rates for Treasuries," explained the article.

OK, makes sense, as far as the explanation goes. But could that figure be right? As high as 8% for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage? A rate that, says one housing economist quoted by the paper, "could stall the housing recovery."

Off I went in search of confirmation. It didn't take long at all. Sure enough, David Greenlaw, the chief fixed-income economist at Morgan Stanley is predicting a rise in the 30-year fixed to 7.5 or even 8% ... which would be just about the highest in a decade! Says Greenlaw to Bloomberg, "When you take these kinds of aggressive policy actions to prevent a depression, you have to clean up after yourself."

It is still questionable whether the very modest improvement we think we see in the housing market is a real one based on a slowly improving economy, or a fake one courtesy of heavy-handed federal government intervention?

Regardless, a jump to 8% for a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage would, without question, cause considerable damage. As it is, a growing army of homeowners face a winter foreclosure because they can't afford their current mortgage payments and can't get a permanent mortgage modification. An 8% rate would mean fewer new customers will likely seek to enter the housing market, especially at a time when job security (provided, that is, that you have one) is an alien concept.

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle"

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