MADISON, Wis. (12/19/08)--A Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Wednesday what lower mortgage rates will mean to consumers. The newspaper asked Mike Schenk, CUNA senior economist, how far he expects 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to fall during the next few weeks. “I don’t know about the next few weeks, but I wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see them down near 4.5%,” Schenk said. “That’s been a stated number. I think we are approaching about 5% on average, and I fully expect them to go lower yet.” Lower rates should help stimulate home building and buying, but if consumers are concerned about their job security and existing debt levels, then they are less likely to consider a big purchase, Schenk told the paper. Homeowners who can refinance will reap the biggest benefits of lower rates, he added. “If you tell me, ‘I can drop your monthly payment by $200,’ that will get my attention real fast,” Schenk said. Regarding the effect of lower rates on the foreclosure problem, Schenk told the paper, “Certainly lower rates will help in that regard.” As adjustable-rate mortgage reset, the rates won’t go up as high as people expected and might even drop in some instances. That, in turn, will allow more consumers to afford their monthly payments and remain in their homes, he added.