Long-term mortgage rates fell this week as high oil prices and weak retail sales hinted at possible economic weakness, according to surveys conducted by Freddie Mac and Bankrate.com.

In Freddie Mac’s survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.8 percent for the week ended today, down from last week when it averaged 5.89 percent. The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage this week is 5.4 percent, down from last week when it averaged 5.47 percent. Points on both the 30- and 15-year averaged 0.5.

The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 5.34 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 5.4 percent. The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 4.58 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, up very slightly from last week when it averaged 4.57 percent.

“Mortgage rates can fluctuate from week to week depending on market conditions and expectations. That is probably what happened this week,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac. “Although economic indicators of late have been positive, they were not quite what the market had been expecting.

“Nonetheless, long-term mortgage rates are at about the same low level they were at this time last year. So it isn’t surprising that the housing industry continues to thrive. Home sales are strong and housing starts are up for the first seven months of the year over the same period last year.”

In Bankrate.com’s survey, fixed mortgage rates declined this week after six consecutive weeks of rising interest rates. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage decreased from 5.96 percent to 5.88 percent, Bankrate.com reported. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgages in this week’s survey had an average of 0.37 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage rate declined slightly from 5.56 percent to 5.5 percent, while the average jumbo 30-year fixed-rate mortgage slipped from 6.14 percent to 6.07 percent. The average 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage decreased from 5.62 percent to 5.56 percent, and the one-year ARM rose to 4.94 percent from 4.89 percent one week ago.

Mortgage rates fell because a pair of economic reports led investors to believe that the economy is slowing due to high fuel prices, according to Bankrate.com. The report on retail sales in July showed weaker-than-expected growth. One strong venue of retail sales was at gas stations; as the Consumer Price Index showed, people spent more at gas stations in July because fuel prices went up 3.8 percent. While higher fuel prices might increase overall inflation, they also can stall the economy. Among investors the latter concern outweighed the former; the prospect of economic weakness sent rates lower.

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

New York – 5.91 percent with 0.15 point

Los Angeles – 5.91 percent with 0.53 point

Chicago – 6 percent with 0.04 point

San Francisco – 5.94 percent with 0.33 point

Philadelphia – 5.8 percent with 0.34 point

Detroit – 5.88 percent with 0.25 point

Boston – 5.94 percent with 0.11 point

Houston – 5.79 percent with 0.75 point

Dallas – 5.85 percent with 0.57 point

Washington, D.C. – 5.8 percent with 0.6 point


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