Long-term mortgage rates fell this week on news that retail sales plummeted in February, making inflation less of a concern, according to surveys conducted by Freddie Mac and Bankrate.com.

In Freddie Mac’s survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.34 percent for the week ended today, down from last week’s average of 6.37 percent. The average for the 15-year fixed loan is 5.98 percent, down from last week’s average of 6 percent. Points on both the 30- and 15-year averaged 0.7.

The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 5.93 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 6.03 percent. The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 5.37 percent, with an average 0.8 point, down from last week when it averaged 5.45 percent.

“Financial markets, hedging against the potential build up in inflation, pushed mortgage rates higher last week,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “However, market indicators this week seemed to point to less of a threat of inflation, and that allowed rates to drift a little lower.

“Housing starts fell in February as expected, but were still stronger than had been forecast, while January figures were revised upward. This is a good sign that housing activity, although slowing from record levels set in the past few years, will continue to remain healthy this year.”

In Bankrate.com’s survey, fixed mortgage rates dipped slightly, one week after hitting the highest point since September 2003. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is now 6.43 percent, Bankrate.com reported, and discount and origination points on these loans averaged 0.32.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage rate ticked lower, from 6.09 percent to 6.08 percent, according to Bankrate.com, and the average jumbo 30-year fixed rate slipped from 6.63 percent to 6.6 percent. Adjustable-rate mortgages were mixed, with the average 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage slumping from 6.13 percent to 6.07 percent, while the average one-year ARM climbed from 5.76 percent to 5.79 percent.

Mortgage rates took a breath after a larger-than-expected decline in February retail sales, Bankrate.com reported. Since retail sales are the pulse of consumer spending, any drop-off stokes fears of a slowing economy. Yields on bonds, including government-issued and mortgage-backed securities, fell as expected. But record trade and current account deficits counteracted any increased demand for bonds, so mortgage rates moved only slightly. Fixed mortgage rates for each of the past two weeks remain higher than any other week dating back to September 2003, Bankrate.com said.

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

New York – 6.37 percent with 0.19 point

Los Angeles – 6.48 percent with 0.47 point

Chicago – 6.57 percent with 0.04 point

San Francisco – 6.5 percent with 0.27 point

Philadelphia – 6.33 percent with 0.33 point

Detroit – 6.48 percent with no points

Boston – 6.4 percent with 0.22 point

Houston – 6.41 percent with 0.59 point

Dallas – 6.48 percent with 0.5 point

Washington, D.C. – 6.29 percent with 0.58 point

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