Mortgage rates this week climbed for the fourth straight week to highs not seen since the summer of 2002, according to surveys conducted by Freddie Mac and Bankrate.com.

In Freddie Mac’s survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to an average 6.53 percent for the week ended today, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week’s average of 6.49 percent. The 30-year fixed has not been higher since the week ending July 12, 2002, when it averaged 6.54 percent.

The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage is 6.17 percent, with an average 0.5 point, up from last week’s average of 6.14 percent. The 15-year fixed has not been higher since the week ending June 13, 2002, when it averaged 6.17 percent.

The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 6.16 percent this week, with an average 0.8 point, up from last week when it averaged 6.13 percent. The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 5.63 percent, with an average 0.9 point, up from last week when it averaged 5.61 percent.

“Mortgage rates drifted upward this week following the release of the Consumer and Producer Price Indexes for March, which came in at the upper end of market expectations for inflation,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “As a result of higher mortgage rates, housing market activity is beginning to slow, as evidenced in the lower housing starts statistics for March.

“Even though lenders are offering greater interest-rate discounts on ARMs, the interest-rate savings has declined relative to fixed-rate mortgages. The ARM share of applications dipped to 32 percent in March from 35 percent in November 2005, according to our survey. If the Fed continues to raise short-term rates, the ARM share will likely decline further.”

In Bankrate.com’s survey, fixed mortgage rates moved slightly higher, on mixed interest-rate signals. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 6.57 percent, and remains the highest since the week of June 26, 2002. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgages in this week’s survey had an average of 0.41 discount and origination points.

Bankrate.com reported that the average 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, which is popular for refinancing, stepped up to 6.23 percent. On larger loans, the average jumbo 30-year fixed-rate zipped to 6.78 percent from 6.73 percent. Adjustable-rate mortgages slumped, with the average 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage dropping from 6.25 percent to 6.19 percent, and the average one-year ARM dipping from 5.89 percent to 5.86 percent.

Mortgage rates have been driven in recent weeks by inflation and interest-rate expectations, and there were mixed signals on both fronts this week, according to Bankrate.com. A tame reading on producer prices at the core level fueled hopes that perhaps the Federal Open Market Committee would wrap up interest-rate increases soon. Later that day, the minutes from the March 28 Fed meeting also propelled financial markets higher by indicating that the end of the rate hikes “would be near.” But the April 19 release of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) showed a faster-than-expected increase in core inflation, which is not the type of news that will get the Fed to stop raising interest rates. As a result, the yield on 10-year Treasury notes hopscotched back-and-forth over the 5 percent barrier, pushing back above 5 percent following the CPI release. Fixed mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds.

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 – 6.52 percent with 0.23 point

Los Angeles – 6.63 percent with 0.53 point

Chicago – 6.71 percent with 0.09 point

San Francisco – 6.63 percent with 0.33 point

Philadelphia – 6.44 percent with 0.64 point

Detroit – 6.65 percent with 0.03 point

Boston – 6.59 percent with 0.21 point

Houston – 6.53 percent with 0.61 point

Dallas – 6.56 percent with 0.53 point

Washington, D.C. – 6.44 percent with 0.91 point

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