Market Watch 17 March 2008

Early last week, swaps fell but then they shot back up to higher levels.

  • One-year money is up 0.02% at 5.35%
  • Two-year money is up 0.06% at 4.96%
  • Three-year money is up 0.04% at 4.91%
  • Five-year money is up 0.02% at 4.95%

Scottish Widows Bank emailed brokers to inform them that its phone lines would shut from 5pm on March 11 to 9am on March 17. I know it must be busy but this is a drastic step. When we brokers have clients screaming for their offer letters and we have to tell them we can’t do anything no matter how urgent their cases are it makes us look bad.

Other lenders with service issues have managed to keep answering the phones. Let’s hope by the time you read this, SWB is back on track.

I’m sure readers were all suitably unimpressed by theBudget.

Sensible alterations to Stamp Duty were not made and the chancellor tried to get us to sell long-term fixed rates again.

As the government now owns Northern Rock, this is a chance for it to launch some longer term fixed rates of its own.

These should feature no early re-payment charges and be flexible enough to accommodate any changes that might happen over a 25-year period.

By all means, show the rest of the mortgage market how it’s done. But I’m not holding my breath.

Well done to Nationwide, which cut its two and three-year fixed rates for loans up to 90% LTV by 0.1%. Sadly, its two-year and lifetime tracker rates went up by 0.25% and it re-moved the 90% to 95% LTV tier on its two-year fees-free tracker and lifetime tracker deals.

Intelligent Finance has followed Cheltenham & Gloucester’s lead by pulling its 95% LTV products across the board, both offset and standard. Its three-year tracker offsets at 75% and 90% LTV have been increased by 0.3% to 0.45%.

It has also withdrawn its fees-free term tracker remortgage products with no ERCs, and its one-year fixed rate. It has a new three-year offset remortgage tracker at 85% LTV.

It was sad to see Salt withdrawing from the sub-prime market to concentrate on prime self-cert and buy-to-let. It has reduced its prime self-cert fixed rates, cut its prime self-cert LTV to 80% and withdrawn its Swiss LIBOR tracker rates. On the buy-to-let side, its rental assessment has been in-creased to 120% at 85% LTV.

Halifax has followed its prime competitors by increasing its tracker rates. For purchases and remortgages they have gone up by 0.2% and 0.15% respectively.

Woolwich has repriced its £1m-plus range. I’m not sure if everyone was made aware of the changes but the rates have risen substantially since I last looked.

Woolwich used to have a good City mortgage for loans above £500,000. Its new schemes above £1m are individually priced. The rate is 0.95% above the base rate for life but with a £5,000 fee per £1m of borrowing. So loans of more than £3m now carry a £15,000 fee.

I’d have thought that with a rate of almost 1% above the base rate, the fee would be a lot lower.

But the lender’s large loans team in Leeds is good and its service is great.

Mortgage Ex-press has withdrawn its deals above 85% LTV, so its 100%-plus deals and its 90% LTV buy-to-let range have gone.

It has also withdrawn its 85% LTV two-year self-cert products so just the three-year self-cert deals remain. Obviously it doesn’t want to be the only lender left in the high LTV market.

Abbey has increased its fixed rates by between 0.05% and 0.2% and its tracker rates by between 0.15% and 0.35%. It gave us fair notice and applications had to be keyed in by Sunday so volumes should be low and the system should cope. But it also means there won’t be any IT geeks to help as they’ll be watching Star Trek repeats on Sky.