NOTE: We will be moving to one post a week (on Wednesday’s) until further notice since we are under lockdown here in Contra Costa County and I can’t go out and explore!
My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending has an interesting take on the latest interest rate cuts by the Fed. Even since he’s written this, the Fed has made yet another cut (because of the government’s response to coronavirus killing the stock market in addition to the Saudi’s dropping the barrel prices), so I’ll try my best to tie the two together at the bottom and make sense of all this:
We were asked a variance of this question over and over yesterday: “I heard that the Fed cut the rate by 1/2 percent; can I lower my mortgage rate by 1/2 percent?” We would respond by explaining that the “Fed Funds Rate” often does not correlate to mortgage rates for a variety of reasons. I touch on this often because the confusion surfaces every time the Fed cuts rates.
When the Fed makes a rate cut, it is to the short-term “Fed Funds Rate,” which does not always impact long-term mortgage rates in the way that most consumers might expect. I blogged about this as recently as August, but here is a brief summary of why mortgage rates not only don’t always correlate to Fed rate cuts, but often go up after the Fed cuts rates:
The “markets” anticipated the rate cut and already adjusted for it. Traders and investors analyze polls, data, and Fed comments to very effectively anticipate changes and the Fed Funds Rate and the markets often adjust long before the rate cuts take place. As a result, very little happens when the Fed Funds Rate is actually cut (or increased).
Short-term rates don’t always affect long-term rates. The Fed is only reducing the Fed Funds Rate, or the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans. This is a very short-term rate and short-term rates don’t always affect long-term (mortgage) rates.
Many factors influence long-term rates besides the Fed, and below are just a few. These factors include economic data; inflation signals; geopolitical crises; and the demand for mortgage bonds. SO WHAT DID RATES DO AFTER THE FED CUT RATES? Rates were about the same after the rate cut as they were the day before.
One day later – in a shocking and surprise weekend move, the Fed cut the Fed Funds Rate to 0% on Monday. See above as to why it might not move mortgage rates. But, the Fed also committed to $500 billion of treasury bond purchases and $200 billion of mortgage-backed security purchases.
This renewed “Quantitative Easing” did push rates down slightly but that didn’t last, as the market is all over the place yesterday and probably today and extremely volatile.
MORTGAGE RATES BARELY MOVE; CAPACITY ISSUES
Despite the massive Fed intervention, mortgage rates barely moved. The reason is capacity.
There are $11 trillion in outstanding mortgages – give or take. The industry is capable of funding about $2 to $3 trillion per year – at most.
When borrowers with $5 trillion worth of mortgages want to refinance over the course of a few months, the industry simply can’t handle the volume.
And – as a result, rates remain on the higher side and are still over 1/2 a percent higher than where they were 10 days ago. The Feds’ rate cut is actually getting a lot of criticism because it will do so little to stimulate economic activity (travel, major events, supply chain issues) offset by the coronavirus concerns. It also leaves the Fed nowhere to go if things get worse. We are in uncharted waters; welcome to the new normal. At the end of the day when this settles, rates will still be low and we may see a listing and buying spree due to the sheltering in place.
Stay safe and healthy my friends!