Mortgage rates sank for the fourth straight week on news of softening real estate markets and a disappointing economic report from the manufacturing sector, Freddie Mac and Bankrate.com reported today in their weekly surveys.

In Freddie Mac’s survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to an average 6.11 percent this week from 6.14 percent last week, remaining near an 11-month low. The 15-year fixed-rate loan approached a 10-month low, falling to 5.84 percent from last week’s 5.87 percent average.

Points, which are fees charged by lenders for loan processing expressed as a percent of the loan, averaged 0.5 on the 30- and 15-year loans.

The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 5.92 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 5.95 percent. The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 5.43 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 5.46 percent.

“Continued signs of slowing in the housing market and weakness in the manufacturing sector helped keep mortgage rates down this week,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, in a statement. “As a matter of fact, the 30-year FRM is very nearly the lowest it has been this year. The only other time the 30-year FRM has been lower was in January when it fell to 6.1 percent.

“Looking forward in the housing market, we think that housing is about two-thirds of the way through the correction, and should stabilize by mid-year 2007.”

In Bankrate.com’s survey, mortgage rates were down for the fourth consecutive week, with the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage falling to 6.08 percent, the lowest since Oct. 2005. According to Bankrate.com’s weekly national survey of large lenders, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgages had an average of 0.25 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, popular for refinancing, retreated to 5.83 percent, Bankrate.com reported. On larger loans, the average jumbo 30-year fixed rate slid to 6.36 percent. Adjustable-rate mortgages were down also, with the average 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage dropping below the 6 percent mark to 5.95 percent and the average one-year ARM inching lower to 5.88 percent.

Bankrate.com said mortgage rates plunged this week following a report indicating the first contraction in the manufacturing sector since April 2003. The Institute for Supply Management’s monthly index of manufacturing came in at a disappointing 49.5, and any reading below 50 indicates that the sector is contracting and is a bearish signal on the economy. Investors have seized upon any news of a softening economy to snap up bonds and drive yields lower, and mortgage shoppers have been the beneficiaries. Mortgage rates are closely related to the yields on long-term government bonds.

Fixed mortgage rates are sharply lower than five months ago, when rates were flirting with 7 percent, according to Bankrate.com. At that time, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate peaked at 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 6.08 percent, the same loan originated today would carry a monthly payment of $998.

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 – 6.03 percent with 0.01 point

Los Angeles – 6.12 percent with 0.4 point

Chicago – 6.28 percent with 0.01 point

San Francisco – 6.03 percent with 0.43 point

Philadelphia – 5.98 percent with 0.27 point

Detroit – 6.18 percent with no points

Boston – 6.1 percent with 0.09 point

Houston – 6.07 percent with 0.42 point

Dallas – 6.05 percent with 0.37 point

Washington, D.C. – 5.95 percent with 0.51 point

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