New York (CNNMoney) — At least one fear was not realized amid Monday’s meltdown: the concern that mortgage rates would immediately shoot higher in response to Standard & Poor’s downgrade of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored entities that are the 800-pound gorillas of the mortgage market.
In fact, the initial response to Fannie and Freddie getting cut to AA+ from AAA was precisely the opposite. Mortgage rates were poised to continue declining.
HSH Associates, which surveys lenders, quoted the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4.44% Monday. “We expect to see rates go into the 4.30’s by noon tomorrow,” said Keith Gumbinger, of HSH Associates.
Mortgage rates are set off of the interest rates on U.S. Treasury notes and bonds. Even though Standard & Poor’s pulled its AAA rating of the United States Friday night, investors still rushed into U.S. Treasury securities Monday as a safe haven, believing more in the “full faith and credit of the United States” than in the opinion of Standard & Poor’s credit analysts. As investors snapped up Treasury notes and bonds they pushed down interest rates on those securities, which move inversely to prices.