Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed below the psychologically-important 10,000 level for the first time since 2004.
Despite the milestone-marker breach, however, there was a large group of Americans with reason to cheer. As stocks sold off, mortgage markets rallied to the benefit of home buyers everywhere.
Conforming mortgages rates improved yesterday.
Most interesting here is that rates improved for the same reason that the stock market fell. Because of lingering concerns about the worlds' economies, investors lost their collective appetite for risk Monday. In response, they sold their stock positions and parked the proceeds in the "safe haven" of U.S. government-backed debt.
The extra demand for safe investments pushed up the prices on mortgage bond which, in turn, pushed down mortgage bond rates.
Now, we can't predict when the market's risk appetite will return, but when it does, expect money to flow into stocks just as quickly as it left.
All year long, with respect to stock markets, it's been either "everybody in" or "everybody out" and, for now, it's everybody out. This is why mortgage rates fell Monday.
But, when the momentum shifts -- and it will shift -- mortgage rate shoppers would do well to be prepared. Be ready to lock that mortgage rate because as soon as the stock market reverses course, mortgage rates will head higher.
If stocks recover as quickly as they tanked, expect mortgage rates to spike badly.
(Image courtesy: USA Today)