Mortgage rates jump higher

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Mortgage rates climbed rapidly this week, joining a long list of things that are becoming more expensive.

The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 26 basis points, to 6.52 percent, according to the national survey of large lenders. A basis point is one-hundredth of 1 percentage point. The mortgages in this week’s survey had an average total of 0.41 discount and origination points. One year ago, the mortgage index was 6.84 percent; four weeks ago, it was 6.19 percent.

The benchmark 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 28 basis points, to 6.12 percent, and the 30-year, fixed-rate jumbo rose 13 basis points, to 7.6 percent. The benchmark 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose 27 basis points, to 6.07 percent.

The 30-year fixed recorded its biggest one-week increase since Bankrate’s Feb. 20 survey, when it went up 41 basis points. In Bankrate’s weekly survey, the 30-year fixed has jumped more than 25 basis points seven times in the last 10 years — and three of those instances have been in 2008.

If there’s any consolation to be found, it’s that rates were substantially higher a year ago. Back then, the culprit appeared to be a hot stock market that drew investors away from bonds, causing bond yields to rise, followed closely by mortgage rates. This year, rates are rising in response to inflation fears, as well as concerns about credit quality.

Weekly national mortgage survey
Results of’s June 11, 2008, weekly national survey of large lenders and the effect on monthly payments for a $165,000 loan:
  30-year fixed
15-year fixed
5-year ARM
This week’s rate: 6.52%
Change from last week: +0.26
Monthly payment: $1,045.08
Change from last week: +$28.07

Up, up and away

Prices of gasoline are skyrocketing, and heaven forbid that you own a diesel-powered vehicle, because diesel fuel is within reach of $5 a gallon in some places. Food prices have been going up fast, too — and a salmonella scare has the potential of creating a shortage of fresh tomatoes.

“Manufacturing contacts in several Districts noted some ability to pass along higher costs to customers,” the Federal Reserve reports in its latest Beige Book report on economic activity.

Continuing in its typically dry-as-a-saguaro language, the Fed adds: “Retailers reported mixed results with respect to raising final goods prices.” But those results don’t seem mixed for consumers who bought a pizza, filled a gas tank and applied for a mortgage in the last week. For them, it’s been up, up, up.

Consumer spending has slowed down, and a decline in tourism in New York City has resulted in “lower attendance at Broadway theaters,” the Fed reports, just in time for the Tony Awards.

Home prices down in places

Although mortgage rates are higher, and prices are rising for many consumer goods, it looks as though houses are less expensive in some parts of the country. The Beige Book says home prices are down in New England, Florida and California. The National Association of Realtors, or NAR, reports this week that its index of pending home sales was up in April, signaling a possible increase in home sales in the last half of this year.

“Sharp price reductions are leading to a quicker discovery of price equilibrium points,” the Realtors’ chief economist, Lawrence Yun, says.

Translation, according to some analysts analysts, a glut of foreclosures, especially out West, is cutting into home prices.

Just before mortgage rates blasted off this week, the president of the National Association of Realtors, Richard Gaylord, said: “Overall affordability conditions are the best we’ve seen since the middle of the housing boom in 2004, but with far more choices and much less pressure than buyers experienced four years ago to make an investment in their future.”

But with mortgage rates climbing a quarter of a percentage point in days, some of that gain in affordability has been lost.