Mortgage rates crept higher for the second straight week, buoyed by a Commerce Department announcement that retail sales for November were better than expected, Freddie Mac and Bankrate.com reported today in their weekly surveys.

In Freddie Mac’s survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased this week to an average 6.13 percent from 6.12 percent a week ago, and the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage gained from 5.86 percent to 5.89 percent.

Points, which are fees charged by lenders for loan processing expressed as a percent of the loan, averaged 0.4 on the 30- and 15-year loans.

“What is interesting to note is that the 30-year (fixed-rate mortgage) this week is one-eighth of a percentage point lower than the 30-year (fixed-rate mortgage) was at this time last year,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “This could bode well for housing in the new year, and indeed we have seen a spike in refinancing activity over the past few weeks as rates have come down. Borrowers who have ARMs that are scheduled for a rate adjustment in 2007 may want to consider refinancing those loans now to take advantage of the lower rates currently available.”

The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) rose to an average 5.96 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, up from last week’s 5.92 percent. The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM, however, dipped to an average 5.44 percent, with an average 0.6 point, down from 5.45 percent last week.

In Bankrate.com’s survey, mortgage rates increased in the past week, largely due to evidence of robust retail sales. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is now 6.2 percent, with an average of 0.24 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed-rate mortgage popular for refinancing rose to 5.95 percent, Bankrate.com reported. On larger loans, the average jumbo 30-year fixed rate is now 6.45 percent. The average 5/1 ARM climbed to 6.09 and the average one-year ARM notched higher to 5.91 percent.

Bankrate.com said last week’s strong retail sales report provided evidence that any hopes of a Fed rate cut are premature. It was also a dose of reality to bond investors that had been viewing the economic glass as half-empty and had been pushing bond yields and mortgage rates lower, as interest rates are closely related to the yields on long-term government bonds. Bond yields and mortgage rates have been in a holding pattern since, with the markets shrugging off data on producer prices and housing starts.

Fixed mortgage rates are sharply lower since the Fed stopped raising interest rates at mid-year, according to Bankrate.com. In late June, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 6.93 percent. At the time, the monthly payment on a loan of $165,000 was $1,090. With the average 30-year fixed rate now 6.2 percent, the same loan originated today would carry a monthly payment of $1,011, which could be a compelling refinancing alternative for adjustable-rate borrowers facing sharp payment adjustments.

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 – 6.13 percent with 0.12 point

Los Angeles – 6.23 percent with 0.43 point

Chicago – 6.38 percent with 0.04 point

San Francisco – 6.17 percent with 0.44 point

Philadelphia – 6.16 percent with 0.22 point

Detroit – 6.26 percent with no points

Boston – 6.27 percent with 0.09 point

Houston – 6.19 percent with 0.46 point

Dallas – 6.18 percent with 0.41 point

Washington, D.C. – 6.06 percent with 0.53 point

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