What Impact Does the Prime Rate Have on Mortgage Interest Prices?

The prime rate has little direct effect on most mortgage interest rates. Only home equity loans and lines of credit are usually tied to this”Wall Street Journal’s” printed prime rate. However, the prime rate does apply some indirect influence on several mortgage rates, particularly adjustable rate mortgages. Borrowers who know these effects become smarter customers and create much better mortgage choices.


At the U.S., the prime rate represents the interest rate provided to many of a bank’s best (most powerful ) borrowers. Since the 1980s, however, prime rate has become more of an”indicator” (a base upon which to calculate other interest levels ) than a legitimate borrowing rate. Most consumer loans (credit card, automobile, equity loans or HELOCs, and other short-term borrowings) are directly affected by the prime rate. The”Wall Street Journal” prime rate quotes are the most-often-used reference, since the WSJ publishes a composite rate provided by at least 75 percent of the biggest banks in the U.S.


Considering that the prime rate is a short term rate, it serves as an effective indicator for consumer and industrial borrowing. But, it has limited use as a long-term indicator. Consequently, it’s rarely employed with 15- and 30-year mortgage loans. Prime rate as an indicator is otherwise helpful for two key reasons. Normally calculated in 2 to 4 percentage points over the Federal Reserve Funds Rate (fed funds)–that is typically the cheapest rate of those publicly quoted–prime speeds supply a sensible target indicator. Additionally, the prime rate is a psychological indication of this”disposition” of the market. The prime rate rises since the fed funds rate goes up, offering a snapshot of the market as a whole.


Although seldom employed as a mortgage indicator, the prime rate does influence mortgage rates to some level. The prime rate’s importance as a national grade typically encourages mortgage rates to fluctuate in relative similarity. As the prime rate slides in response to some fed funds increase, consumer loan rates–such as home equity loans–follow. Mortgage rates historically will go up, although they may”lag” behind those changes for a period of time. Assessing a historic graph of mortgage, prime and fed funds rates displays this indirect effect (see References).

Psychological Effects

In a normal market, once the prime rate declines, home buyers and homeowners become more convinced about property and mortgage loans. If mortgage rates then fall, as they tend to do, greater consumer confidence frequently creates higher loan volume with much more housing purchases and refinances. This more powerful mortgage loan volume is 1) psychologically driven and two ) rate-motivated. Exceptions to this”principle” occur during down markets or recessions, as consumer confidence is low. Psychologically, this scenario slows home sales and refinancing requests, even though both the prime and mortgage rates are low.


Although refinancing a home is firmly rate-driven, home purchases can indicate the relationship of the prime rate on mortgage loan volume. For example, a low prime rate frequently equates to greater industrial borrowing, allowing organizations to grow and prosper. Home buyers feel more powerful job protection, which encourages more home sales and new mortgages. Lenders looking for higher loan volume frequently shave mortgage rates downward to attract new borrowers. Although the prime rate failed to mathematically influence mortgage rates, it did proactively promote an interest rate reduction. The pricing of ARMs can be affected, as their average indexes (U.S. Treasury Securities, LIBOR and 11th District Cost of Capital ) are directly changed by increases or decreases in the prime rate.

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