The Federal Reserve has cut interest rates three percentage points since September in an effort to shore up the housing market and broader...
The Federal Reserve has cut interest rates three percentage points since September in an effort to shore up the housing market and broader economy, yet some mortgage rates have hardly budged.
The target for the overnight federal funds rate has fallen to 2.25 percent from 5.25 percent, yet the average high-quality 30-year fixed mortgage is close to 6 percent, according to Bankrate.com, near its level before the rate cuts.
If credit conditions weren’t so tight, the Fed’s actions would have pushed mortgage rates down to about 5 percent, experts say.
“These days, consumers don’t feel they are getting a break on mortgages,” said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
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The Fed directly controls only short-term rates. Mortgage rates typically follow the 10-year Treasury yield.
The difference, or spread, between short- and long-term rates has grown substantially. Banks use the spread when setting mortgage rates.
The 10-year yield recently was 3.49 percent, 2.24 percentage points lower than the average for a conventional 30-year mortgage. Before the credit crisis took hold last summer, the spread was only 1.33 percentage points.
Why haven’t mortgage rates fallen farther? They’re being held hostage to an unusually tight credit market.
Mortgages are packaged into securities and resold as investments. The surge in losses on subprime loans to poor-credit borrowers has created an oversupply of mortgage assets. Rates are being kept high to entice investors into these securities.