Mortgage rates continued to creep lower this week, as economic conditions remained sluggish, according to surveys conducted by mortgage buyer Freddie Mac and Bankrate.

In Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.98 percent for the week ended today, down slightly from last week when it averaged 6 percent.

The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage this week is 5.39 percent, down one basis point from last week when it averaged 5.4 percent. Points on both the 30- and 15-year averaged 0.6.

One-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 4.12 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 4.02 percent.

“Although Chairman Greenspan stated in his testimony before Congress recently that the economy may have hit a ‘soft patch’ in June, his outlook for the second half of the year was more upbeat than expected,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “Stronger growth in the economy will invariably translate into higher mortgage rates in the future, particularly for ARM products. But this should be offset by job growth and by rising incomes nationwide.

“However, the rise in mortgage rates will be measured, not extreme, and that will help keep the housing industry stable and affordable in the coming months.”

Fixed mortgage rates inched lower this week as evidence of an economic soft-patch mounted, according to Bankrate.com’s weekly national survey of large lenders. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to a three-month low of 6.06 percent from 6.11 percent last week, according to Bankrate. The last time 30-year fixed mortgage rates were this low was the week of April 21. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgages in this week’s survey had an average of 0.32 discount and origination points.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage popular for refinancing dipped from 5.5 percent to 5.47 percent. The average rate for the jumbo 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined by a similar amount, dropping from 6.3 percent to 6.26 percent. The average one-year adjustable-rate mortgage increased four basis points to 4.39 percent. A basis point is one one-hundredth of one percentage point.

Mortgage rates have decreased consistently in recent weeks in response to tepid economic growth. Slower than expected job growth, sluggish retail sales, and a surprising drop in housing starts show an economy growing at a moderate – rather than a blistering – pace. In addition, inflation remains in line with forecasts. This all bolsters the case for “measured” interest-rate hikes by the Federal Reserve’s rate-setting committee. Yields on long-term government bonds, to which mortgage rates are closely related, have declined in recent weeks on the outlook for gradual rate hikes.

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

New York – 6.1 percent with 0.05 point

Los Angeles – 6.11 percent with 0.44 point

Chicago – 6.16 percent with 0.02 point

San Francisco – 6.1 percent with 0.27 point

Philadelphia – 6.08 percent with 0.3 point

Detroit – 5.97 percent with 0.25 point

Boston – 6.1 percent with 0.2 point

Houston – 6.01 percent with 0.67 point

Dallas – 6.04 percent with 0.42 point

Washington, D.C. – 5.97 percent with 0.54 point

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