Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.93 percent with an average of 0.7 point this week, down from 4.97 percent a week ago, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.33 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 4.34 percent last week and 4.68 percent a year ago.

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loan averaged 4.12 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from 4.19 percent last week and 5.04 percent a year ago.

The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 4.23 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 4.33 percent last week and 4.8 percent a year ago.

Rates surveyed by Freddie Mac are for prime borrowers taking out loans with 20 percent downpayments. Borrowers taking out loans too large or risky for purchase or guarantee by Freddie Mac can expect to pay more.

After hitting a low of 4.71 percent in December in records dating back to 1971, rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans and other mortgages are expected to rise if the Federal Reserve wraps up ongoing purchases of $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) at the end of March, as planned (see story).

Economists at the Mortgage Bankers Association last month projected that rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages will rise from an average of 4.9 percent during the final quarter of 2009 to 6.1 percent in the final quarter of 2010, 6.3 percent in the last quarter of 2011, and 6.6 percent during the last three months of 2012.

Some observers say the impact of the Fed’s exit from the MBS purchase market may be tempered, at least for a while, by announcements by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the mortgage financiers plan to buy up to $200 billion in delinquent loans from their own MBS and pass-through pools.

"That will buy time, supply, and keep rates down until … ummm … May?," mortgage broker and syndicated columnist Lou Barnes speculated in his most recent column.

***

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