March 8

Mortgage rates moved higher again this week, their ninth consecutive increase.

According to the latest data, released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average rose to its highest level since January 2014, climbing to 4.46 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.43 percent a week ago and 4.21 percent a year ago.

The 15-year fixed-rate average rose to 3.94 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.90 percent a week ago and 3.42 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable-rate average inched up to 3.63 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.62 percent a week ago and 3.23 percent a year ago.

Although fears of an impending trade war created uneasiness among investors, stronger-than-anticipated employment data somewhat offset those concerns. If Friday’s jobs report continues to show low unemployment, home loan rates could take an even bigger upturn.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly employment report can have a significant impact on mortgage rates. As employment rises, investors tend to move away from mortgage-backed securities and bonds and put their money into the stock market.

Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow, says the new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports could have a more profound effect on rates.

“Markets could be particularly volatile over the next couple of days as the tenor of U.S. economic and trade policy gets worked out, but eyes will still be watching Friday’s jobs report, although to a lesser extent,” Terrazas said.

Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that half of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week. Michael Becker, branch manager of Sierra Pacific Mortgage, is predicting rates will fluctuate but not move too far one way or the other.

“Mortgage rates and Treasury yields have been up and down the last few days,” Becker said. “Down because of markets concern about President Trump’s threat to impose trade tariffs, which could lower global growth. Up because markets are convinced that the Trump tax cuts and the increased spending in the recent passed budget will add to growth. I think this will likely continue over the coming week with rates up one day and down the next. In the end, rates won’t change that much in the coming week.”

Meanwhile, mortgage applications were flat last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — increased 0.3 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index rose 2 percent, while the purchase index fell 1 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 41.8 percent of all applications.

“Refinance activity increased slightly last week, but remains close to year-end lows,” said Joel Kan, MBA economist. “Purchase applications dipped half a percent over the week, as applications for government purchase loans decreased 1.7 percent while conventional purchase applications were flat. Purchase applications were 1.3 percent higher than the same week a year ago. The average loan amount on purchase applications, at $320,100, was the highest since November 2017, as supply constraints likely continued to weigh down lower-dollar purchase transactions.”