Mortgage rates posted mixed results this week as weak economic growth and cooling real estate markets took pressure off inflation, according to surveys conducted by Freddie Mac and Bankrate.com.
In Freddie Mac’s survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped to an average 6.3 percent, down slightly from last week’s six-month low of 6.31 percent, while the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage remained at its six-month low of 5.98 percent.
Points, which are fees charged by lenders for loan processing expressed as a percent of the loan, averaged 0.3 on the 30-year and 0.4 on the 15-year loans.
The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) held steady at 6 percent — also a six-month low — and points on these loans averaged 0.5. The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 5.46 percent with an average 0.7 point, down very slightly from last week when it averaged 5.47 percent. The 1-year ARM has not been lower since the week ending March 23, 2006, when it averaged 5.41 percent.
“Mortgage rates fell to a six-month low this past week, and, not surprisingly, home refinancing rose 18 percent last week, accounting for almost half of all mortgage applications,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “This is due both to the recent decline in mortgage rates and to homeowners who are refinancing ARMs rather than waiting for them to reset in the future when rates may be higher.
“Even though rates have fallen recently, housing activity continues to slow while new construction wanes, leading Fed Chairman Bernanke to expect that the national economic rate of growth will lose up to one full percentage point in the last half of this year.”
In Bankrate.com’s survey, mortgage rates were mixed, with fixed rates rising while adjustable rates pulled back. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate ticked higher to 6.31 percent, but remains at levels not seen since March, and these loans had an average of 0.31 discount and origination points.
The average 15-year fixed-rate mortgage popular for refinancing returned to the 6 percent mark, up from 5.96 percent last week, according to Bankrate.com. On larger loans, the average jumbo 30-year fixed rate was unchanged at 6.57 percent. Adjustable-rate mortgages slipped, with the average 5/1 ARM dipping to 6.06 percent and the average one-year ARM retreating to 5.88 percent.
Bankrate.com said that news of slower economic growth, falling oil prices, and a belief that the Fed will ultimately cut interest rates has resulted in lower government bond yields and fixed mortgage rates. Fixed mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds. The September employment report to be released Oct. 6 is a likely catalyst for additional volatility in bond yields and mortgage rates.
Fixed mortgage rates have dropped notably since the Fed last hiked rates at the end of June, Bankrate.com reported. At the time, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 6.93 percent, meaning that the monthly payment on a loan of $165,000 was $1,090. With the average 30-year fixed rate now 6.31 percent, the same loan originated today would carry a monthly payment of $1,022.
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 – 6.26 percent with 0.09 point
Los Angeles – 6.33 percent with 0.51 point
Chicago – 6.48 percent with 0.03 point
San Francisco – 6.38 percent with 0.28 point
Philadelphia – 6.25 percent with 0.44 point
Detroit – 6.35 percent with no points
Boston – 6.32 percent with 0.19 point
Houston – 6.29 percent with 0.54 point
Dallas – 6.27 percent with 0.47 point
Washington, D.C. – 6.19 percent with 0.57 point