Mortgage rates are notoriously unpredictable, but they do reliably respond to two bits of economic news — Fed actions and jobs reports. Both items are on this week’s economic calendar.
This week’s first bit of must-watch economic news comes Wednesday, when the Federal Reserve Open Markets Committee wraps up its November meeting. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak to reporters.
In recent months, the Fed has discussed a “taper” of its pandemic-inspired economic stimulus. The Fed has been buying $120 billion in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities every month, but a taper would mean slowing those purchases.
All that bond-buying has helped to keep mortgage rates low. With inflation gathering momentum, market watchers expect the Fed to pull back on bond buying.
A second piece of noteworthy news comes Friday, when the U.S. Labor Department releases its jobs report for October. Unemployment soared into the double digits during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, but the U.S. labor market has come back strong.
The unemployment rate for September stood at 4.8 percent. Players in the mortgage industry will watch closely for signs that the labor market is accelerating or sputtering.
The Fed doesn’t directly dictate mortgage rates, and the calculus behind how much you pay for a home loan is complicated. But here’s one easy rule of thumb: The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage closely tracks the 10-year Treasury yield. When that rate goes up, the popular 30-year fixed rate mortgage tends to do the same.
Rates for fixed mortgages are influenced by other factors, such as supply and demand. When mortgage lenders have too much business, they raise rates to decrease demand. When business is light, they tend to cut rates to attract more customers.
Rates ultimately are set by the investors who buy your loan. Most U.S. mortgages are packaged as securities and resold to investors. Your lender offers you an interest rate that investors on the secondary market are willing to pay.