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Brexit has not had a major impact on U.S. mortgage rates, so far

By Mike Wheatley | July 21, 2016

Research firms are predicting that Brexit will have little impact on the U.S. housing market, and will not lead to a lowering of mortgage rates.


“The downward pressure on mortgage interest rates from Brexit already appears to be unwinding, with 30-year fixed rates increasing last week from 3.60% to 3.65%,” Capital Economics Property Economist Matthew Pointon said. “Given we expect Brexit will have a minimal impact on the U.S. economy, we see no reason to change our forecast for mortgage rates to reach 3.85% by the end of this year, and 5.0% by the middle of 2018”.

Before this, Capital Economics had said that it expected the Federal Reserve to increase rates faster than the market would normally expect. It went so far as to say rates could rise by 1.75 to 2 percent by the end of next year.

As for Goldman Sachs, it previously predicted GDP growth of 2.25 percent in the U.S. this year. But following the surprise over Brexit, it revised its forecast to two percent for the year. Goldman Sachs also said the Fed will probably only raise rates once this year, instead of twice as it previously predicted.

“Looking ahead, we expect treasury yields will rise as inflationary pressures force the Fed to act more aggressively than many expect,” Capital Economics’ Pointon said. “But set against that, with the economic uncertainty caused by Brexit smaller than feared, mortgage spreads will also drop back from current highs.”

“Indeed, the spread fell back last week to 206 basis points,” Pointon continued. “Overall, while mortgage rates have been a bit lower over the past three weeks due to Brexit, we see no reason to change our view that they are set to rise gradually over the next couple of years.

Another example of Brexit’s diminishing effect came from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), which said that before the U.K. voted to leave the EU, mortgage applications went back to the previous downward trend, declining by 2.4 percent from one week before, despite record low interest rates.

But after the U.K. voted to leave the EU, mortgage applications suddenly shot up by 14.2 percent, driven in a large part by refinance activity. The following week saw that trend continue with mortgage applications rising by another 7.2 percent.

This week, the MBA said purchase applications have also surged, by 23 percent compared to one week ago. Interestingly, even when Brexit pushed rates lower and applications soared, purchases application only rose 4% from the previous week. Curiously though, this week saw mortgage applications decline by 1.3 percent.

One point worth noting is that the Fed apparently chose not to raise interest rates in a meeting just before the Brexit vote, because they weren’t sure of the outcome. Now they know, it could well give Fed officials cause to hold off on raising interest rates, some experts have speculated.

“Our view on interest rates continues to be ‘low for long’ as we believe a Fed decision to raise interest rates will likely be on hold until June of 2017,” Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan said. “Brexit’s economic impact on the U.S. will likely be limited, especially from a trade perspective, and should be a near-term positive for the housing and mortgage market as falling mortgage rates have prompted new refinance demand.”

However, a Wall Street Journal article by Michael Derby and Jon Hilsenrath states that Fed officials could make a decision to increase rates well before the end of the year, possibly as early as September.

So there’s lots of speculation on the impact Brexit will have, but to date, the vote has had very little effect on U.S. real estate markets at all, and probably won’t do so until it becomes clear exactly when the U.K. intends to leave Europe, and exactly what kind of deal it can make for itself.

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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