For a little perspective on how low rates are right now, the all-time low for average 30 year rates is 3.30 percent, set back in 2012. Forecasts for higher mortgage rates in 2017 were wrong. At the beginning of the year, forecasts were for 30 year rates to move towards 5.00 percent.
Why are mortgage rates moving lower despite GDP growth and employment growth being strong? In short, low inflation. Despite the unemployment rate falling to 4.3 percent in July and 2nd quarter GDP growth coming in at a strong 2.6 percent rate, inflation isn't a concern.
Low inflation will keep the Federal Open Market Committee from raising interest rates. The Labor Department said July's Consumer Price Index rose only 0.1 percent in July. Over the past 12 months, CPI rose 1.7 percent, below the FOMC's target of 2.00 percent.
Where are Mortgage Rates Headed in 2017?
A lot will depend on whether or not the Fed increases the fed funds rate. The Fed has telegraphed three fed funds rate increases this year and has raised the rate twice already. This leaves one more rate increase in 2017. The Fed has three more meetings scheduled this year and the chances of that third rate increase happening are diminishing.
There is a slim chance of a rate hike during the next two Fed meetings, according to the CME Group's FedWatch Tool. The likelihood of a rate increase during the September meeting is at 2.7 percent. The chance of a rate hike during the October meeting is lower, at 1.09 percent.
There is a higher chance of a rate hike during the December meeting but even that chance is diminishing. Last month the FedWatch Tool had a 42.8 percent chance of a rate hike in December, that has been lowered to 31.2 percent as of today.
It's unlikely mortgage rates will move higher in 2017, especially if the Fed doesn't raise rates any more this year. Long term bond yields are also falling because it's unlikely the Fed will increase rates. These factors will put downward pressure on mortgage rates.
For the rest of 2017, average 30 year mortgage rates will remain under 4.00 percent and possibly under 3.75 percent. Average 15 year mortgage rates currently at 2.96 percent and will likely remain near the 3.00 percent level.