Long-term mortgages rates dipped this week as weak home-builder optimism and lower housing starts took pressure off inflation, Freddie Mac and Bankrate.com reported today.

In Freddie Mac’s survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage sank to an average 6.69 percent from 6.74 percent last week, while the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 6.37 percent from 6.43 percent. Points, which are fees lenders charge for loan processing expressed as a percent of the loan, averaged 0.5 on the 30- and 15-year loans.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) also became slightly more affordable this week, with the five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid ARM falling to 6.31 percent from 6.37 percent and the one-year ARM down from 5.75 percent to 5.66 percent. Points on these loans averaged 0.6 and 0.7, respectively.

“Mortgage rates eased this week due to market concerns that the housing market will be a longer drag on the economy,” Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a prepared statement. “May’s housing starts fell for the first time in four months, while home-builder optimism in June fell to a 16-year low.

“Thus far this year, the housing sector directly shaved 0.8 percentage points off real economic growth in the first quarter, compared to the 1.2 percentage points it lopped off growth in the second half of 2006.”

In Bankrate.com’s survey, mortgage rates broke a seven-week streak of increases, with the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate falling back to 6.76 percent, and discount and origination points averaged 0.27.

The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage, popular for refinancing, dropped to 6.45 percent, Bankrate.com reported. With larger loans, the average jumbo 30-year fixed rate dipped back below the 7 percent mark to 6.99 percent. Adjustable-rate mortgages were no different, with the average one-year ARM inching lower to 6.18 percent and the 5/1 ARM sinking to 6.58 percent.

After rising significantly in the preceding three weeks, mortgage rates responded to signs that core inflation was moderating as the Fed has forecast, according to Bankrate.com. The core Consumer Price Index announced on June 15 came in lower than expected, and showed a decline over the trailing 12 months. Any indication that inflation is less of a threat is good news to bond investors that fear its erosive effects on the purchasing power of a bond’s fixed payments. The resulting increase in bond prices pushed both bond yields and mortgage rates — which are closely tied — lower.

Bankrate.com reported that fixed mortgage rates remain nearly one-half percentage point higher than at the beginning of May. At the time, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 6.28 percent, meaning that a $165,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,019. With the average 30-year fixed rate now 6.76 percent, the same loan originated today would carry a monthly payment of $1,071.

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 – 6.75 percent with 0.07 point

Los Angeles – 6.79 percent with 0.44 point

Chicago – 6.82 percent with 0.05 point

San Francisco – 6.72 percent with 0.5 point

Philadelphia – 6.82 percent with 0.17 point

Detroit – 6.74 percent with 0.01 point

Boston – 6.76 percent with 0.05 point

Houston – 6.79 percent with 0.46 point

Dallas – 6.72 percent with 0.48 point

Washington, D.C. – 6.65 percent with 0.45 point

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