Mortgage rates barely budge from record lows

Fed report finds improvement in housing markets in 10 of 12 districts

After hitting record lows last week, mortgage rates have stayed tanked amid growing concerns that lawmakers won’t reach a compromise to avoid a "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take place next year, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.32 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending Nov. 29, up from 3.31 percent last week but down from 4.00 percent a year ago. Last week’s rate was a new record in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971.

For 15-year fixed-rate loans, rates averaged 2.64 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from 2.63 percent last week but down from 3.30 percent a year ago. Last week’s rate was a record in records dating to 1991.

Rates on five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 2.72 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 2.74 percent last week and 2.90 percent a year ago. Rates on five-year ARM loans hit a low in records dating to 2005 of 2.69 percent during the week ending July 19.

For one-year Treasury-indexed ARM loans, rates averaged 2.56 percent with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from last week but down from 2.78 percent a year ago. Rates on one-year ARM loans hit a low in records dating to 1984 of 2.55 percent during the week ending Nov. 15.

A separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed applications for purchase mortgages were up 3 percent during the week ending Nov. 23 compared to the week before. The survey, which included an adjustment for the Thanksgiving holiday, showed purchase loan demand up 8 percent from a year ago.

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A Federal Reserve report published Wednesday summarizing commentary on current economic conditions around the country found markets for single-family homes improving in 10 of 12 Federal Reserve Districts. Boston and Philadelphia were the exceptions.

The "Beige Book" report — based on reports from Federal Reserve Bank and branch directors, and interviews with business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources — found sales growth generally slowed for both the condominium and single-family home markets in the Boston District.

Fed officials in the Philadelphia District said their sources noted that October "began as a disappointing month for some Realtors, only to be punctuated by Hurricane Sandy."

Reports from the New York District were "mixed but generally firm prior to the storm. Selling prices were steady or rising."

Declining or tight inventories were reported in Boston, New York, Richmond, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Dallas.

Single-family housing starts were up in the Cleveland District, while builders in the Richmond District reported "significant pent-up demand in the first-time buyer segment.

In the Atlanta District, existing home sales were up slightly compared to a year ago, with investors more active in Florida than in the rest of the District.

Residential construction of single- and multifamily homes increased at a slow but steady pace in the Chicago District, while reports from the Minneapolis District indicated that "segments of construction and real estate were growing at a double-digit clip."

Real estate activity was characterized as "brisk" by the Kansas City District, with a solid rise in home sales reducing inventories.

The St. Louis District reported continued improvement in residential real estate market conditions.

In the Dallas District, single-family housing activity remained strong, with both new and existing home sales up.

Demand for homes continued to strengthen in the San Francisco District, and sustained growth in home sales has spurred new home construction.


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