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Rates go up, summit goes on

By Holden Lewis ·
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Posted: 2 pm ET

Mortgage bond yields have been rising today, maybe enough to spur some lenders to hike mortgage rates by one-eighth of a percentage point. Pin it on rising stock prices, which compel investors to take money out of bonds so they can buy stocks. The result is rising bond yields and rising mortgage rates.

Today there was a housing summit at the U.S. Treasury Department, in which bigwigs opined about the future of housing finance in general, and the fates of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in particular. One the panelists was Bill Gross, co-chief investment officer of PIMCO, the bond trading giant. He said that, without government guarantees, mortgage rates would be several percentage points higher.

I doubt that Gross is correct about this. Jumbo mortgages aren't guaranteed by the government, and the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate jumbo is about three-quarters of a percentage point higher than the corresponding rate on a conforming 30-year fixed. If Gross were correct, jumbo rates would be much higher than that. They would be 7 or 8 or 9 percent, instead of averaging 5.27 percent in last week's Bankrate survey.

I didn't get to catch much of the housing finance summit. I had a meeting, then some reporters interviewed me about our annual closing costs survey, published yesterday. So I ask: If you watched or listened to today's housing summit, is there anything that stood out as especially interesting? Feel free to comment. I have a feeling that a few readers are geeky enough to have watched the thing online.

Hey, speaking of interviews, you can hear what I sound like on this interview with NPR yesterday on the subject of our closing costs survey.

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