Makin' Money

Loan rates are down: The bad and the good

Chris Farrell Aug 3, 2011

The cost of borrowing is heading lower.

Take mortgage rates. According to Bankrate.com, the national average for 30-year fixed rate mortgages is 4.37%. That’s down from 4.52% last week. The 15-year mortgage is 2.87%, well below last week’s 3% rate.

Normally, we cheer when interest rates come down, at least if we’re in the market to borrow money. The news is mixed this time. Sure, falling mortgage rates are a boon to homebuyers.

Problem is, declining mortgage rates also reflect a depressed housing market and an economy that’s stalling out. (And just because rates are down isn’t a good reason to borrow.) The rate drop is a signal that the economy is back in trouble.

When it comes to student loans a decline in rates is for the best. Borrowers come out ahead.

For instance, the rate on federal Stafford (for students) loans reset every July 1 for loans issued between July,1998 and June, 2006. The rate for these loans in repayment is now 2.36%, down from 2.47%. The rate is 1.76% if the student is in school, grace period, or deferment. It was 1.87%.

At least some student borrowers are getting financial relief.

This table from Finaid offers an updated list on Stafford and Plus (for parents) loan rates.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.