Mortgage rates were little changed this week on news that the economy improved and inflation remained in check at the end of 2010, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

The economy grew at an annual rate of 3.2 percent during the fourth quarter, up from 2.6 percent in the third quarter, Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said, while the core price index for consumer expenditures rose by an annualized rate of 0.4 percent — the smallest increase since records began in 1959.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.81 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending Feb. 4, essentially unchanged from 4.8 percent last week but down 5.01 percent from a year ago. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a low in records dating to 1971 of 4.17 percent during the week ending Nov. 11.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage was also stable, averaging 4.08 percent with an average 0.8 point, compared with 4.09 percent last week and 4.4 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate loan hit a low in records dating back to 1991 of 3.57 percent in November.

Rates on 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 3.69 percent this week with an average 0.7 point, little changed from 3.7 percent last week but down from 4.27 percent a year ago.  The 5-year ARM hit a low in records dating to 2005 of 3.25 percent in November.

The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 3.26 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, unchanged from last week and down from 4.22 percent a year ago.

Looking back a week, demand for purchase loans was up a seasonally adjusted 9.5 percent during the week ending Jan. 28 compared to the week before, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in releasing the results of a separate applications survey.

The survey did not include a holiday adjustment for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, the MBA said. Looking at the past two weeks, purchase loan applications were flat, and refinance applications down about 5 percent. Looking back a year, demand for purchase loans was down 21.4 percent.

In a Jan. 14 forecast, MBA economists said they expect rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans will climb to an average of 5.5 percent during the final months of 2011, and to an average of 6.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012.

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