LOS ANGELES -- The average long-term U.S. mortgage rate fell again this week, but remains near the 22-year high it hit three weeks ago, little relief for house hunters facing persistently high prices and a near-historic low number of homes for sale.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year home loan fell to 7.12% from 7.18% last week. A year ago, the rate averaged 5.89%.
High rates can add hundreds of dollars a month in costs for borrowers, limiting how much they can afford in a market already unaffordable to many Americans. They also discourage homeowners who locked in low rates two years ago from selling.
Mortgage rates have been climbing in recent weeks, echoing moves in the 10-year Treasury yield, which lenders use as a guide to pricing loans.
The yield, which two weeks ago neared its highest level since 2007, has been hovering above 4% since August as bond traders weigh whether recent economic data increase the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will decide it needs to keep interest rates higher for longer to lower iNFLation.
Bond yields rose earlier in the week after a report showed stronger growth for U.S. services industries last month than economists expected. Yields remained high after a report on Thursday said fewer U.S. workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than expected.
“The economy remains buoyant, which is encouraging for consumers,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Though while inflation has decelerated, firmer economic data have put upward pressure on mortgage rates which, in the face of affordability challenges, are straining potential homebuyers.”
High inflation drove the Federal Reserve to raise its benchmark interest rate 11 times since March 2022, lifting the fed funds rate to the highest level in 22 years. While mortgage rates don’t necessarily mirror the Fed’s rate increases, they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Investors’ expectations for future inflation, global demand for U.S. Treasurys and what the Fed does with interest rates can influence rates on home loans.
The average rate on a 30-year mortgage remains more than double what it was two years ago, when it was just 2.88%. Those ultra-low rates spurred a wave of home sales and refinancing. The sharply higher rates now are contributing to a dearth of available homes, as homeowners who locked in those lower borrowing costs two years ago are now reluctant to sell and jump into a higher rate on a new property.
The lack of housing supply has weighed on sales of previously occupied U.S. homes, which are down 22.3% through the first seven months of the year versus the same stretch in 2022.
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