Mortgage rates eased again this week according to a survey by Freddie Mac, as fears about the economic impacts of turmoil in the Middle East helped depress yields on long-term bonds, including those that fund most home loans.
A separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed demand for refinancing and purchase loans rebounding last week as borrowers sought to take advantage of the reversal in mortgage rates.
Rates had been marching steadily upwards this year on expectations of continued economic growth and fears that government borrowing will fuel inflation.
Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.95 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending Feb. 24, Freddie Mac said, down from 5 percent last week and 5.05 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971 of 4.17 percent during the week ending Nov. 11.
For 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, rates averaged 4.22 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from 4.27 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 3.8 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 3.87 percent last week and 4.16 percent a year ago. The 5-year ARM hit a low in records dating to 2005 of 3.25 percent in November.
For 1-year Treasury-indexed ARMs, rates averaged 3.4 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from 3.39 percent last week but down from 4.15 percent a year ago.
The MBA said applications for purchase loans were up 5.1 percent last week compared to the week before, and that requests for refinancing surged 17.8 percent. Demand for purchase loans was still down 6.9 percent from the same period a year ago.
In a Feb. 18 forecast, MBA economists said they expect rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans to average 5.2 percent during the first three months of this year, rising to an average of 5.5 percent in the second quarter, 5.6 percent in the third quarter, and 5.8 percent in the final three months of the year.
The MBA projects a more gradual rise in during 2012, with rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans climbing to an average 6.3 percent in the final three months of the year.