With the rate on a 30-year mortgage hovering near 8%, Fannie Mae has scaled back its forecast for lending volume this year.
David Berson, chief economist at the secondary market agency, now expects $750 billion in home loans, down $50 billion from his earlier estimate.
But even the scaled down estimate represents a hefty increase of about 14% over 1995 volume.
Still, the 30-year fixed-rate loan continues to dominate the market. And adjustable-rate mortgages, which made up only 16% of all loans in January, are not expected to be more than a quarter of all loans in 1996, Mr. Berson said.
For Fannie Mae, formally the Federal National Mortgage Association, this means good business. Thirty-year loans are generally sold into the secondary market, not held in bank or thrift portfolios, as adjustables are.
Here are some highlights of Mr. Berson's 1996 forecast.
*Rates. Fannie Mae expects the interest rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to drop, averaging 7.64% in the second quarter, 7.43% in the third, 7.46% in the fourth. Mr. Berson has not factored in any easing of short-term rates by the Federal Reserve Board.
*Home sales. Despite the February surge in housing starts and in sales of existing homes, Mr. Berson, like other analysts, expects home sales to slow as the year continues.
From an annualized rate of 3.85 million in the first quarter, Mr. Berson expects existing home sales to drop almost continuously through the year to an annualized rate of 3.74 million in the fourth quarter.
He projects that new-home sales will follow a similar path, from an annualized rate of 679,000 in the first quarter to 646,000 in the fourth.
*Refinancings. The hike in long-term rates in February has slowed refinancings considerably, but Mr. Berson believes that there is still life in the refi portion of the market. And he projects refinancings will pick up in the second half of the year. Overall, he expects refinanced loans to make up a third of all loans in 1996.
Most of the refis are by ARM borrowers who face higher rates as their loans adjust than they would have to pay on fixed-rate mortgages, even at current levels, Mr. Berson said.
Separately, David Lereah, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America reported that applications for refinancings had fallen 53% in the latest week. He said the refinancing boom appears to be over.
*Adjustable-rate loans. Even if the Federal Reserve cuts short-term rates, Mr. Berson does not expect adjustables, which are linked to them, to gain much market share.
His reasoning: As long as fixed-rate loans remain under 8%, housing affordability with a fixed-rate mortgage is high - so consumers choose fixed-rate loans over adjustables.