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Rising Mortgage Rates Are Two-Edged Sword for Banks — Heard on the Street

Justice League

Banks in the U.S. have much to be thankful for this holiday season. Higher rates on mortgages aren’t necessarily on the list.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed conforming mortgage has risen to 4.16%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, up from post-Brexit lows around 3.6%. Higher rates normally are good for lenders as they help them earn more on loans. Mortgages are a special case. Most are sold off to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and then packaged into securities. The portion held by banks stands at just a third.

Higher rates also suppress refinancing, which means fewer one-time gains for banks that make loans and sell them. For holders of mortgage-backed securities, though, this is positive. Fewer will be repaid early. As the heaviest holder of such securities among major banks, Bank of America should be the biggest beneficiary.

Ironically, though, after getting pounded by ultralow rates…

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