Mortgage rates fell significantly this week on the heels of the bleak U.S. employment report released on Friday, according to surveys conducted by mortgage buyer Freddie Mac and Bankrate.

In Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.41 percent, with an average 0.6 point, for the week ended today, down sharply from last week when it averaged 5.59 percent.

The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage this week is 4.69 percent, with an average 0.7 point, down nearly 20 basis points from last week’s average of 4.88 percent.

One-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.41 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, down from 3.47 percent last week. This is the lowest the one-year ARM has been since Freddie Mac began tracking those figures in January 1984.

“As we had predicted earlier in the month, interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages edged closer to last year’s record-low figures,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist. “For the year as a whole, we expect long-term rates may be even lower annually than they were in 2003.

“Families looking to lower their monthly payments even further might consider adjustable-rate mortgages. We predict ARMs will make up a much larger share of originations this year, perhaps the highest since about 1995.”

Mortgage rates plummeted about a fifth of a percentage point after the release of a disappointing jobs report for February, according to the national survey of large lenders. As a result, rates dropped to their lowest point since last summer, when they were plumbing 46-year lows.

The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 20 basis points to 5.44 percent in Bankrate’s weekly survey. The mortgages in this week’s survey had an average total of 0.34 discount and origination points.

Other rates fell by similar amounts. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage popular for refinancing fell 19 basis points to 4.76 percent; the jumbo 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped 20 basis points to 5.64 percent; and the one-year adjustable-rate mortgage tumbled 15 points to 3.43 percent. A basis point is one one-hundredth of one percentage point.

The last time the 30-year benchmark rate was lower was June 25, when it was 5.31 percent. The 30-year bottomed out at 5.28 percent in Bankrate’s June 11 survey, the lowest rate since FHA loans averaged 5.25 percent in January 1957.

The rate plunge began early on the morning of March 5, when the employment report for February was released. That was almost a week ago, and ordinarily, that would have spurred a big jump in the number of people refinancing. But mortgage lenders nationwide report that they haven’t yet seen much of the usual rush to refi. One reason why: The Martha Factor. The jobs report came out the same day as Martha Stewart’s guilty verdict, distracting the media and the public, according to Bankrate.

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

New York – 5.54 percent with 0.1 point

Los Angeles – 5.39 percent with 0.65 point

Chicago – 5.51 percent with 0.09 point

San Francisco – 5.46 percent with 0.44 point

Philadelphia – 5.46 percent with 0.11 point

Detroit – 5.35 percent with 0.45 point

Boston – 5.54 percent with 0.01 point

Houston – 5.41 percent with 0.59 point

Dallas – 5.37 percent with 0.57 point

Washington, D.C. – 5.35 percent with 0.43 point


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