How the lower Federal Interest Rate can help you in 2020

How the lower Federal Interest Rate can help you in 2020

Recent events have generated a lot of questions, so we’d like to help answer some of the more frequently asked:

The Fed lowered its rate, can I get a 0.25% mortgage?
No. The Fed lowered the Funds Rate. The Fed Funds Rate is the overnight rate that banks can lend to each other. When this rate is cut, it will have an impact on shorter term rates like the 2-year, etc., but it will not have a direct affect on longer term Bonds, like 30-year Mortgages. Of course, it can have an indirect effect, but sometimes when the Fed cuts rates, 30-year rates can go higher if it’s viewed as inflationary. Remember, Bonds hate inflation because it erodes the value of the fixed return you get from a Bond…and longer term Bonds react more adversely because they mature in a longer period of time.

If mortgage rates aren’t based on the Fed Funds Rate, what are they based on?
They’re based on mortgage-backed securities (MBS). A mortgage-backed security is a type of asset-backed security which is secured by a mortgage or collection of mortgages. The mortgages are aggregated and sold to a group of individuals that securitizes, or packages, the loans together into a security that investors can buy.

What did the Fed do that might help with interest rates?
The Fed has increased Quantitative Easing (QE). This means the Fed is buying at least $700B in MBS and Treasuries. Additionally, the Fed is not allowing their current holdings of MBS and Treasuries to roll off their balance sheet anymore. The Fed amassed a huge balance sheet of MBS and Treasuries after their QE efforts to stimulate the economy after 2008…Remember QE1, QE2, Operation Twist, QE3? They did this to keep rates low and to spur lending so companies could expand, create more jobs, and fuel the economy. For quite some time the Fed was keeping their balance sheet net neutral. This means that they kept their level of holdings of MBS and Treasuries the same, even though they would, over time, roll off their balance sheet. When a Treasury matures, or people refinance or pay off their mortgage or make principal payments, the Fed gets that money. What they were doing before last September was buying more MBS and Treasuries to keep the balance sheet net neutral or the same. But as of last September, the Fed was allowing the MBS and Treasuries that would naturally fall off to do so. After last night, they are not going to allow them to roll off anymore. This means they will be buying more than the $700 Billion they said and will eat up a lot of the supply of Bonds and Treasuries out there. This reduction in the supply should provide support and possibly cause rates to move lower in the next few weeks as lenders get their footing back.

How Coronavirus has effected the Mortgage Economy

Recently, growing fears around the spread of the coronavirus have led to increased volatility in interest rates. With the Fed cutting its rate to 0.25% (the lowest it’s allowed), markets have been spinning off chaotically, bouncing up and down and causing many lenders to curtail pricing and temporarily suspend locking loans. While there is still much uncertainty surrounding the spread of the coronavirus and its implications, we expect markets to remain volatile and mortgage interest rates to fluctuate daily. If you have a mortgage loan in process, don’t panic. We are keeping a close eye on the market and locking when appropriate.

Starting in the second half of 2019, economic growth slowed around the world due to trade tensions and other factors. This development, along with expectations regarding the path for monetary policy, has pulled down the 10‐year Treasury rate – and subsequently mortgage rates.

In the rest of the economy, after growing at an average quarterly rate of 2.5 percent in 2018, it appears that 2019 was almost as strong with a growth rate of 2.3 percent, based on the BEA’s advance estimate of GDP growth. We expect growth to slow to 1.2 percent in 2020 and 1.6 percent 2021, provided COVID-19 peters out quickly. The labor market ended 2019 averaging almost 180,000 jobs added to the economy per month and with the unemployment rate well below the Fed’s measure of full employment at 3.5 percent. Wage growth trended higher in 2019 but appears to have leveled off for now. Low rates and a strong job market have helped household balance sheets and supported consumer spending, along with continued improvement in mortgage performance. As the unemployment rate has reached historically low levels, and with overall economic growth slowing, we expect monthly payroll growth to slow and the unemployment rate to drift higher. Job openings have fallen dramatically over the past few months and companies have been pulling back on their capital investment and hiring plans, as the manufacturing sector remains weak, and the global outlook has darkened.

Even with slowing economic growth, we still hold to the view that conditions are supportive for home‐purchase activity, as there have been signs of housing inventory recovery as new construction has picked up and increased purchase activity in early 2020. However, it is possible that some of this was driven by mild winter weather in parts of the country. We still expect gradual growth in home sales and purchase originations in 2020, especially as more people self-isolate and become dissatisfied with their current housing situation.