Mortgage rates dipped further this week after last week’s drop to six-month lows, according to surveys conducted by mortgage buyer Freddie Mac and Bankrate.

In Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.64 percent for the week ended today, down from 5.66 percent last week. This is the lowest the 30-year fixed has been since the week ending July 11, 2003, when it averaged 5.52 percent.

The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage this week is 4.95 percent, down from last week’s average of 4.97 percent. Fifteen-year fixed-rate mortgages have also not been this low since the week ending July 11, 2003, when they averaged 4.85 percent. Points on both the 30- and 15-year averaged 0.6.

One-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.56 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, down from 3.62 percent last week. This is the lowest the 1-year ARM has been since the week ending July 18, 2003, when it averaged 3.58 percent.

“Mortgage rates remain low as the economy picks up steam, allowing families a chance to purchase a new home or refinance if they haven’t yet. In 2003, single-family housing starts were at their highest annual average in 25 years, and average total-home sales are expected to break new records,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

“With low prospects of inflation increasing anytime soon, mortgage rates should remain affordable over the first half of this year. Only last week, mortgage applications for home purchase hit a new record high, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, thus reinforcing the notion of continued resilience in housing market at the onset of 2004.”

In Bankrate.com’s weekly national survey of large lenders, mortgage rates showed little change this week and remained at the lowest point since July. The average 30-year fixed rate mortgage dipped to 5.67 percent from 5.68 percent. The mortgages in this week’s survey had an average of 0.42 discount and origination points. The last time the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was lower was the week of July 9, 2003, at 5.61 percent.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage popular for refinancing fell beneath the 5 percent barrier to 4.99 percent for the first time since July. The jumbo 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and one-year adjustable-rate mortgage each fell 2 basis points to 5.93 percent and 3.68 percent, respectively. A basis point is one one-hundredth of one percentage point.

Financial markets were closed on Jan. 19 for the Martin Luther King holiday, and economic releases have been sparse this week. The few economic releases include news of continued strength in housing starts and building permits. Even refinancing applications have rebounded in the past week thanks to low mortgage rates, and now comprise approximately half of all applications.

The following is a sampling of Bankrate’s average 30-year-mortgage interest rates this week in some U.S. metropolitan areas.

New York – 5.78 percent with 0.04 point

Los Angeles – 5.61 percent with 0.73 point

Chicago – 5.77 percent with 0.1 point

San Francisco – 5.73 percent with 0.36 point

Philadelphia – 5.72 percent with 0.3 point

Detroit – 5.54 percent with 0.46 point

Boston – 5.79 percent with 0.05 point

Houston – 5.57 percent with 0.74 point

Dallas – 5.55 percent with 0.72 point

Washington, D.C. – 5.62 percent with 0.67 point

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