May Mortgage Rates to Stay Above 7% as Hope Dims for Fed Cuts

Holden Lewis
By Holden Lewis 
Published
Edited by Mary Makarushka

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May mortgage rate forecast

Mortgage rates will probably remain above 7% in May as inflation resists the Federal Reserve's efforts to bring it under control. It left rates unchanged at the conclusion of its April 30-May 1 meeting, and seemed as frustrated by inflation and high interest rates as home buyers are.

The Fed is trying to wrestle the inflation rate down to 2%. The central bank made progress toward that goal in the last half of 2023, and investors rang in the new year with hopes of a Fed rate cut by spring. But the inflation rate sprang a surprise: It hardly budged in the first three months of the year. Investors have convinced themselves that inflation will stick around for a while. Mortgage rates have moved higher as a consequence.

The 30-year mortgage leapt more than a quarter of a percentage point in April. Mortgage rates are unlikely to fall significantly until inflation wanes and the Fed signals that it's getting ready to announce a rate cut. It's unlikely that we’ll see such a turnaround by Memorial Day.

Inflation loses downward momentum

The outlook was sunnier just a few months ago. As 2023 turned to 2024, it looked as if inflation was waning in earnest. The core consumer price index had fallen every month since March. From that month to December, core CPI fell from 5.6% to 3.9%. Investors took it as a sign that inflation was headed toward the Fed's 2% goal, and that the central bank would cut the short-term federal funds rate in the first half of 2024.

But progress on prices slowed dramatically in 2024's first quarter, as if the inflation rate had deployed a parachute. In March, core CPI was 3.8%, or just 0.1 percentage point lower than in December. At that rate of decline, it would take more than four years for the inflation rate to drift down to 2%.

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