Monday, August 26, 2013

What’s happening with interest rates?

Interest rates are on the rise.The Big banks have been inching up their rates since May, but have now moved quickly to 5-year fixed rates ranging from 3.79% or 3.89%, which is a 60 basis point hike from what they were six months ago.  The 5 year bond yields have themselves increased by 80+ basis points since the Spring.

However, variable mortgage rates and the prime lending rates are not increasing – yet. So, if you have a line of credit, your rates are staying the same.  If you have a variable mortgage rate or an adjusted rate mortgage (ARM), you’re safe for now.Only fixed mortgage rates are increasing.If you are renewing a mortgage, this is where you’ll likely feel the impact.

If you opted for a variable rate mortgage, today’s variable rates are, on average, around 2.65% compared to 2.1% five years ago. However, 5-yr. fixed posted rates were hovering around six per cent in 2008, but a mortgage professional could get a discounted rate from 4.2% to 4.9%. As fixed rates rise and the Prime rate stays put, now may be a good time to speak with a mortgage professional about the benefits of going variable.

But if banks follow RBC’s lead, then it will be tougher to qualify for a variable rate. The Royal Bank not only increased its fixed rates but also its benchmark rate for qualifying borrowers for variable rates and for fixed rate terms less than five years. The increase is a 20 basis points jump, from 5.14% to 5.34%, which means a household will need approximately $1,100 more income to get a variable-rate mortgage on a $300,000 house with 5% down.

This is also not a good time to wait it out, thinking that rates will come down as they have in the past. It may not be the case this time. Consumers have been getting the message about curbing household debt and have become better money managers.The housing market is showing signs of life and house prices are stabilizing. The economy is moving forward and low rates are just not sustainable anymore.

Fixed rates rely of bond markets. Bond yields are climbing higher so fixed rates climb right along with them. In June, the 5-year yield was up as much as 20+ basis points in less than 48 hours, driven by optimistic economic comments from the U.S. Fed. In CIBC’s Weekly Market Insight for July 12, 2013, chief economist Avery Shenfeld said, “As we move into 2014, better growth will see the Fed accepting a further climb in long rates.”

Stephen Poloz, the new Governor of the Bank of Canada said he would be holding the prime rate at 1 per cent. This is the number banks use to determine their lending rates for lines of credit and variable-rate mortgages. Poloz also added, “Over time, as the normalization of these conditions unfolds [growing economy], a gradual normalization of policy interest rates can also be expected, consistent with achieving the 2-per-cent inflation target.”

That’s a nice way to say that rates will be going up. When is hard to predict,  but all indications are for early-to mid 2014.

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