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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Warning bells about a slowdown in the white-hot housing market are ringing louder thanks to an uptick in mortgage rates and new weakness in pending home sales.

Why it matters: Mortgage rates plummeted in 2020 as the economy buckled under the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic. Now that trend is reversing, putting a damper on consumer appetite for homebuying.

What's happening: The rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage rose to 2.97%, which is its highest level since August 2020, according to Freddie Mac's weekly survey released Thursday.

  • Nationally, pending home sales fell 2.8% in January, well below the consensus forecast for no change. The metric, however, was 13% higher than a year ago.
  • Consumer confidence overall edged higher in February, but those living in big cities and rural areas are less optimistic about buying or selling their homes because of rising prices, according to the recent BofA US consumer confidence indicator.

What they're saying: "The housing sector is always sensitive to changes in mortgage rates so the latest data is showing a loss in momentum for overall housing,” Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, tells Axios.

  • Home sales will continue to rise modestly but gains are likely to now be in the single digits versus the 20% upticks seen in late 2020, Yun says.
  • "Consumers need to understand the absolute low rates in mortgages — those days are over.”

Yes, but: Investors are also factoring in Fed chair Jerome Powell's comments this week emphasizing that the Fed is unlikely to tighten monetary policy solely in response to a stronger labor market, Danielle Hale, realtor.com chief economist, noted in a statement.

  • This may stem some of the upward pressure on interest rates in the upcoming weeks, she added.

Go deeper

Powell remains unbothered by inflation despite yields surging

Data: Investing.com; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. Treasury yields rose to fresh highs on Wednesday, as Fed chair Jerome Powell made clear during his second day of Congressional testimony that the central bank had no plans to step in and put a lid on rising rates.

By the numbers: Yields on the benchmark 10-year note rose above 1.4% for the first time since February 2020 and the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond hit 2.28%, the highest since January 2020.

2 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania. 

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.