Mortgage Rates Soar. Bernanke Comments Seen as Catalyst


Freddie Mac released its weekly update on national mortgage rates this morning, providing hard evidence of the sharp spike in mortgage rates reported widely last week.

Thirty-year fixed rate mortgages (FRM) leapt a big 53 basis points to land at 4.46%, their highest level since late July 2011, nearly two years ago. That's the largest weekly increase for the 30-year fixed rate in 26 years. Fifteen-year FRMs jumped 46 basis points to hit 3.5% in the most recent week, their highest level since August 2011.

One variable-rate mortgage skyrocketed similarly. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages are up 29 basis points to land at 3.08%; one-year ARMs are up a more muted nine b.p. to 2.66%.

Freddie Mac Vice President and Chief Economist Frank Nothaft laid the rate increases directly at the feet of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, saying his "remarks on June 19th about the possible timing of reduced bond purchases" sent both Treasury bond yields and mortgage rates soaring. Nothaft said Bernanke indicated that "the Fed may moderate the pace of its buying later this year and end the purchases around the middle of 2014."

Even so, Nothaft said that while "higher mortgage rates may dampen some housing market activity ... the effect will be muted by the high level of buyer affordability, and home sales should remain strong."


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