I make a point of showing the discount rate changes by the Fed don’t translate to mortgage rate changes. I do so because many people think the discount rate does directly effect mortgage rates. But the Fed announced today, actions that actually do impact mortgage rates.
If you are looking at refinancing your mortgage now (or soon) might be a good time, rates were already very low and will be declining. And if you own long term bonds you just got a nice increase in your value (bond prices move up when interest rates move down).
A total of 288 companies cut or suspended payouts last quarter, the most since Standard & Poor’s records began 54 years ago, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. While the S&P 500 is trading at the lowest price relative to earnings since 1985 and all 10 Wall Street strategists tracked by Bloomberg forecast a rally this year, predictions based on dividends show shares are overvalued by as much as 46 percent.
Just last November the S&P 500 dividend yield topped the bond yield for the first time since 1958. Yields often rise as stock prices fall on future prospects and companies announce dividend cuts after stocks have already fallen (due to the deteriorating conditions the company faces). So you always must be careful not to count dividends before they are paid. As an investor you need to look into the future and see how secure the dividends are likely to be.
Since August of 2008 conforming mortgage rates are have declined a huge amount. Jumbo rates have fallen a large amount also, but much less (for example for a credit score of 700-759 the jumbo rates declined 73 basis points while the conventional rate declined 172 basis points.
For scores above 620, the APRs above assume a mortgage with 1 point and 80% Loan-to-Value Ratio. For scores below 620, these APRs assume a mortgage with 0 points and 60 to 80% Loan-to-Value Ratio. You can see, with these conditions the rate difference between a credit score of 660 and 800 is not large (remember this is with 20% down-payment) and has not changed much (the difference between the rates if fairly consistent).
Related: Low Mortgage Rates Not Available to Everyone – 30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage Rate Data – Real Free Credit Report (in USA) – Jumbo Mortgage Shoppers Get Little Relief From Rates – posts on mortgages
The recent reactions to the credit and financial crisis have been dramatic. The federal funds rate has been reduced to almost 0. The increase in the spread between government bonds and corporate bonds has been dramatic also. In the last 3 months the yields on Baa corporate bonds have increased significantly while treasury bond yields have decreased significantly. Aaa bond yields have decreased but not dramatically (57 basis points), well at least not compared to the other swings.
The spread between 10 year Aaa corporate bond yields and 10 year government bonds increased to 266 basis points. In January, 2008 the spread was 159 points. The larger the spread the more people demand in interest, to compensate for the increased risk. The spread between government bonds and Baa corporate bonds increased to 604 basis points, the spread was 280 basis point in January, and 362 basis points in September.
When looking for why mortgage rates have fallen so far recently look at the 10 year treasury bond rate (which has fallen 127 basis points in the last 3 months). The rate is far more closely correlated to mortgage rates than the federal funds rate is.
Related: Corporate and Government Bond Rates Graph (Oct 2008) – Corporate and Government Bond Yields 2005-2008 (April 2008) – 30 Year Fixed Mortgage Rates versus the Fed Funds Rate – posts on interest rates – investing and economic charts
The lowest 30 Year fixed mortgage rates in 37 years is great news for those looking to buy a house or to re-finance. However, that truth (the lowest rate) masks another truth, that it is available to a somewhat limited pool of borrowers. The rates for jumbo 30 year fixed mortgages and for regular 30 year fixed mortgages, for those with lower credit ratings, are not at the lowest rates they have ever reached. And getting mortgage rates that don’t require a 10-20% down payment and fully documented financial position are not as low as they have ever been. 15 year fixed rates are also low, but are not at all time lows. FHA loans still allow very low down payments, but others have moved away from this practice (which is a wise move).
Current rates, national average, from Bankrate: 30 year fixed 5.26%, 30 year fixed jumbo 6.96% (a full 170 basis points higher rate), 15 year fixed 5.07%. Jumbo rates have been less than 40 basis points higher than conventional rates most of time (based on my memory – I am looking for a source to confirm). The site does not present the credit score but my guess is these rates are based on a credit score of 700, or higher. Last week the jumbo rates increased by 11 basis points and regular 30 year rates fell by 3 basis points.
On Nov 12, 2008 I shopped for an $800,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage on Mortgage Marvel, an on-line site that I reviewed earlier in 2008 (see A Look at Mortgage Marvel). The mortgage companies on the site quoted rates of 8.125% to 8.375%. The credit unions and banks, in contrast, quoted rates ranging from 5.875% to 7.875%. I have never before seen rate differences on the same transaction this large. They no doubt reflect wide differences in lender access to funding, which is symptomatic of a market in turmoil.
We now have the lowest 30 year fixed mortgage rates since data has been collected (37 years) in the USA. Is this due to the Fed cutting the discount rate? I do not think so. As I have said previously 30 year fixed rates are not correlated with federal reserve rates. But this time the government is actively seeking to reduce mortgage rates.
The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.92%, down from last week when it averaged 5.20%. A year ago the 15-year loan averaged 5.79%. The 15-year mortgage hasn’t been lower since April 1, 2004, when it averaged 4.84%.
These rates sure are fantastic if you are in the market. I was not in the market, but I am considering re-financing now. You need to be careful and not just withdraw money because you can. If you can refinance and reduce your payments it may well be a wise move though. One problem can be extending the date you will finally be free of mortgage debt. If you re-finance a current 30 year loan, that you got 5 years ago, you will now be paying 5 more years. One option is to see if you can get a 25 or 20 year loan. Or if you can make a 15 year loan work, do that (15 and 30 year fixed rate mortgages are common).
Treasury bills have been providing remarkably low yields recently. And the Fed today cut their target federal funds rate to 0-.25% (what is the fed funds rate?). With such low rates already in the market the impact of a lowered fed funds rate is really negligible. The importance is not in the rate but in the continuing message from the Fed that they will take extraordinary measures to soften the recession.
There are significant risks to this aggressive strategy (and there would be risks for acting cautiously too). But I cannot understand investing in the dollar under these conditions or in investing in long term bonds (though lower grade bonds might make some sense as a risky investment for a small portion of a portfolio as the prices have declined so much).
The current yields, truly are amazing as this graph shows. The chart shows the yield curve in Dec 2008, 2006, 2000 and 1994 based on data from the US Treasury
S&P 500 Payout Tops Bond Yield, a First Since 1958 (site broke the link, so I removed it):
Treasuries routinely had higher yields than stocks before 1958, according to Bernstein. When this relationship came to an end, yields were near their current levels. The S&P 500 dividend yield fell 0.58 percentage point, to 3.24 percent, in the third quarter of 1958. The 10-year yield rose about the same amount, 0.6 point, to 3.80 percent.
Two explanations later emerged for the reversal, he wrote. One held that the economy’s recovery from the 1957-58 recession showed “investors could finally put to rest the widely held expectation of an imminent return to the Great Depression.” The second was the increasing popularity of investing in growth stocks, or shares of companies whose sales and earnings rose at a relatively fast pace. Because of their expansion, the companies often paid below-average dividends.
Arnott takes it a step further. “In a world of deleveraging, both for the financial services arena and for the economy at large, growth is less certain,” he says. “And with the economy eroding sharply, so is inflation. If stocks don’t deliver nominal growth in dividends and earnings, then their yield ‘must’ exceed the Treasury yield, in order to give us any sort of risk premium.”
More dramatic evidence that changing in the federal funds rate do not lead to similar changes in 30 year fixed mortgage rates. It is true the last few months are very unusual times for the credit market. However, the current lack of correlation is not the exception, the graph clearly shows there is very little correlation between changes in the two interest rates.
Related: historical comparison of 30 year fixed mortgage rates and the federal funds rate – Affect of Fed Funds Rates Changes on Mortgage Rates – posts on financial literacy – Jumbo v. Regular Fixed Mortgage Rates: by Credit Score
For more data, see graphs of the federal funds rate versus mortgage rates for 1980-1999. Source data: federal funds rates – 30 year mortgage rates
The selling is being compounded by hedge funds and mutual funds dumping holdings to meet redemptions, which may push prices even lower, according to analysts at UBS AG.
Corporate debt has been pressured by “incessant selling by hedge funds and leveraged institutions as they unwind,” Bill Gross, manager of the world’s biggest bond fund at Newport Beach, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co.
Corporate bond prices plunged to 79.9 cents on the dollar on average from 94 cents at the end of August and 99 cents at the end of 2007, according to index data compiled by New York-based Merrill Lynch & Co.
“The de-leveraging that we’re witnessing will probably continue,” said Paul Scanlon, team leader for U.S. high yield and bank loans at Boston-based Putnam Investments LLC, which manages $55 billion in fixed income. “My sense is that’s not turning around in the very near term.”
I am not very familiar with the bond market but it does seem like the panic is in full swing but calling the bottom is always hard. I would guess the de-leveraging (and investors pulling money out of bond funds) could well lead things lower over the short term.