Banks launch five-year mortgage rate war as markets bet interest rates will drop

It suggests that some players in the market fear that the economy is slowing. This will force the Bank of England to stop putting rates up or risk doing serious damage.

Experts also said fierce competition among lenders and banks’ risk appetite may also be causing the unusual move.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at surveyor trade body RICS, said the move either “there’s not a great deal of pessimism about interest rates going up, or there might be more pessimism about the economy because they’ve got to come down”.

He added: “What you’re seeing there is a fairly flat picture and that tells me that the market is expecting interest rates to go up a little bit more [and] not expecting them to be aggressive.”

Andrew Wishart, property economist at Capital Economics, said the move in lending rates for homeowners reflects shifts in wider financial markets but also more specific mortgage trends, such as risk appetite.

Economists warned the weak levels of growth mean Britain’s economy is now at risk of contraction as spending is hammered by the rising cost of living.

Tepid GDP growth in February was partially a result of a falloff in test and trace and vaccination activity.

Spending on vaccination fell 65pc over the month as push for booster jabs spurred by the omicron waves petered out.

James Smith, from ING, said: “The winding down of the UK’s booster vaccine and Covid-19 test campaigns weighed on growth in February and will continue to do so for the next few months. Combined with the cost of living crisis, falling confidence, and the presence of an extra bank holiday, we expect second-quarter growth to come in slightly negative.”

Mortgage rate swap

Two-year swap rates are currently 2.14pc, while five-year rates are at 2.06pc, according to Mark Harris, of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients. The current price of swap rates suggests markets expect interest rates to rise sharply in the near future, but then fall back or level off. 

Mr Harris said: “While mortgage rates have gone up across the board in recent weeks, the biggest price increase has been on two-year fixes.”

Mortgage brokers said lenders had been placing a greater focus on keeping five-year deals low as the rising cost of living has driven many customers to take out longer loans to afford their monthly repayments.

Jonathan Harris of Forensic Property Finance, a mortgage broker, said: “While it is highly unusual to see five-year fixes cheaper than their two-year counterparts, there is less need for lenders to concentrate on the pricing of shorter fixes as there is considerably less demand for these than longer fixes. 

“Lenders are putting their energies into offering competitive pricing on these loans.”

Eleanor Williams, of Moneyfacts, said buyers were locking into long term deals to protect themselves from future rate rises.

The cheapest two-year fixed-rate mortgage in Britain is 1.75pc, offered by lender Newcastle Building Society, while the best five-year fix is 1.92pc with Cumberland Building Society, she said.

Rising interest rates have prompted many borrowers to take out mortgages today, fearing higher rates in future. The number of buyers and homeowners searching for a mortgage hit a record high in March, according to analysis by Twenty7Tec, a mortgage data firm.

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