Stock market volatility, inflation fears disrupt mortgage rates, jumbos

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Recent stock market volatility may further constrain jumbo lending, while inflation concerns have lenders paying close attention to rising mortgage rates.

"It could have an effect on those prospective homebuyers who were thinking of cashing out some of their capital gains in the equity market to put toward closing costs or a down payment on a home," said CoreLogic Chief Economist Frank Nothaft, noting that high-end buyers also face tax reform constraints.

"But I think the most immediate and the effect that's felt broadly across the U.S. is the fact that mortgage rates have gone higher," he added.

While mortgage rates previously had been rising, the shock of inflationary pressure from recently released wage data not only spurred steep drops in the stock market, but accelerated the rate increase. Depending on what happens in the next few days, the average 30-year mortgage rate could end up 15 basis points higher that on the week, said Nothaft.

Mortgage companies also could find themselves paying more for strategies used to minimize the risk of interest rate swings.

"We've had very low volatility in fixed-income and equity markets up until recently. However, if there is increased volatility in the bond market, it could make hedging a little more expensive," said Fannie Mae Deputy Chief Economist Mark Palim.

The recent inflationary scare does suggest a big change in the market that could lead to more volatility.

"Mortgages actually have held in pretty well given the extreme amount of volatility we see but it was very unusual, both stock prices and bond prices fell due to inflationary fears," said Walter Schmidt, senior vice president and manager of mortgage strategies at FTN Financial. (As bond prices fall, their rate-indicative yields rise.)

When slow economic growth is more of a concern than inflation, typically when stocks fall investors shift instead into bonds. That raises bond prices and causing rate-indicative yields to fall.

But the recent market volatility reflects the fact that investors have begun worrying instead that inflation is picking up because the economy is doing well.

"We haven't seen that in a long time. It's really a very different market dynamic," said Palim.

This can be a concern for bonds as well as stocks because it not only portends tighter monetary policy that could be more of a challenge for businesses, but also for investments with returns that may not keep pace with the future rate of inflation.

In addition, "There is a lot of new supply [of bonds] coming on the market related to the tax cuts since they increase the deficit and lead to more Treasury borrowing," Northaft noted. Increased availability of bonds without an equal or great pickup in demand puts downward pressure on their prices.

While it is unclear whether inflationary concerns will persist, "if the economic outlook doesn't shift substantially, we still expect to see longer term interest rates, including mortgage rates, to trend higher this year," said Freddie Mac Deputy Chief Economic Len Kiefer in an email.

"Folks active in the market to purchase a home or refinance their mortgage should be aware that interest rates can move quickly and do their best to keep up to date on the information relevant to their situation," he said.

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Stocks Mortgage rates Jumbo mortgages Securitization Secondary market Capital markets Fannie Mae Freddie Mac FTN Financial CoreLogic