Fannie Mae issued a new forecast that predicts the average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage will be 3.7% in the second half of 2019, down from the 3.9% the mortgage financier called for a month ago. That compares to a 4.4% average rate in the first quarter and 4% in the second quarter.
Cheaper mortgage rates will cause a heat-up in home prices, according to the forecast. Last month, Fannie Mae said it expected home prices to grow 4.6% in 2019. In the new forecast, it called for a 5.4% increase.
“With lower mortgage rates taking effect, the deceleration in house price growth that was so prominent over the past year may be pausing,” Fannie said in commentary that accompanied the new forecast.
That comes with a bonus: As people pay more for their homes, mortgage originations will be higher, Fannie Mae said.
“This continued decline in mortgage rates and our upwardly revised view on house price growth have led us to increase our forecast for single-family mortgage originations for the remainder of the year,” Fannie Mae said. “We now expect total originations to rise 7% from 2018 to $1.75 trillion, and we expect refinances to account for 32% of total mortgage originations in 2019, up from 29% in 2018.”
That would make this year the highest since the $1.8 trillion originated in 2017, according to Fannie Mae data.
In addition to its housing forecast, Fannie issued a slate of economic forecasts. It kept its prediction for U.S. GDP growth at 2.1% this year, down from 3% in 2018. It raised its forecast for core Consumer Price Index growth – meaning the CPI minus food and energy, the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge. Fannie now is expecting the U.S. will see a 2.1% increase in core CPI in 2019, up from the 1.8% it predicted a month ago.
The unemployment rate probably will average 3.7% in 2019, Fannie said. That’s down from the 3.8% it was calling for a month ago. For 2020, the unemployment rate probably will be 4%, Fannie said in its latest forecast, down from the 4.2% it predicted a month ago.