Long-term mortgage rates declined this week, helped in part by the Federal Reserve’s recent cut of the rate it charges banks for direct loans, Freddie Mac and Bankrate.com reported today.

In Freddie Mac’s survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage slid to an average 6.52 percent from last week’s 6.62 percent, and the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 6.18 percent from 6.3 percent. Points, which are fees lenders charge for loan processing expressed as a percent of the loan, averaged 0.4 and 0.5, respectively, on the 30- and 15-year loans.

“Interest rates on conforming long-term fixed-rate mortgages and one-year adjustable-rate mortgages trended down by about one-tenth of a percent in the past week,” Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a statement. “This is a result of yields on Treasury securities coming down, and the Fed’s decision to cut the discount rate by half a percent to 5.75 percent last Friday.”

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were also lower, with the five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid ARM sinking to 6.34 percent from 6.35 percent and the one-year ARM falling to 5.6 percent from 5.67 percent. Points on these loans averaged 0.6.

Also contributing to the lower rates were several recently released economic indicators showing more cooling in the housing market, Nothaft said. Last month, total housing starts hit a 10 1/2-year low; single-family starts dropped for the fourth straight month; total building permits were down to a near-11-year low; and building permits issued for single-family homes were at their lowest level since June 1995, according to Nothaft.

In Bankrate.com’s survey, fixed mortgage rates declined, with the average conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate falling to 6.58 percent, and discount and origination points on these loans averaging 0.28.

The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage popular for refinancing pulled back similarly to 6.24 percent, Bankrate.com reported. Jumbo mortgage rates inched back too, but not as much, with the average jumbo 30-year fixed rate declining to 7.4 percent. Adjustable-rate mortgages, however, jumped again, with the average 5/1 ARM climbing to 6.64 percent and the average one-year ARM nosing higher to 6.19 percent.

With rates on most hybrid ARMs such as the 5/1, 7/1 and 10/1 ARM being higher than the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate of 6.58 percent, they hold little appeal for borrowers, according to Bankrate.com. Fixed-rate mortgages are the place to be, and with the Fed shifting its economic stance notably in the past week, conforming mortgage rates may be headed still lower. As for jumbo mortgage rates, even though the average jumbo rate declined this week, it didn’t decline as much as the average conforming rate. The result is a still-wider spread between borrowers on opposite sides of the $417,000 conforming threshold. The spread between the average conforming and jumbo fixed rates is now 0.82 percentage point, up from 0.28 percentage point one month ago.

Despite the turbulence in mortgage markets, fixed mortgage rates are an attractive option for most borrowers, Bankrate.com said. One month ago, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 6.82 percent, meaning that a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,307. Now that the average conforming 30-year fixed rate is 6.58 percent, the same $200,000 loan carries a monthly payment of $1,275.

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 – 6.56 percent with 0.08 point

Los Angeles – 6.66 percent with 0.5 point

Chicago – 6.52 percent with 0.1 point

San Francisco – 6.54 percent with 0.49 point

Philadelphia – 6.57 percent with 0.2 point

Detroit – 6.58 percent with 0.01 point

Boston – 6.59 percent with 0.08 point

Houston – 6.58 percent with 0.48 point

Dallas – 6.58 percent with 0.37 point

Washington, D.C. – 6.58 percent with 0.44 point

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