Signs of inflation and ongoing concerns about turmoil in Libya and the Middle East helped bump mortgage rates up this week, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.81 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending March 24, up from 4.76 percent last week but down from 4.99 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit an all-time 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 4.04 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from 3.97 percent last week but down from 4.34 percent a year ago. Rates on 15-year fixed-rate loans 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 3.62 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from 3.57 percent last week but down from 4.14 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 3.21 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from 3.17 percent last week but down from 4.2 percent a year ago.

"Mortgage rates were up this week compared to last, but still remain at relatively low levels," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, in a statement. "The rate uptick was related to higher than anticipated inflation data for February and ongoing geopolitical concerns."

Oil prices have surged in recent weeks as military actions in Libya and political turmoil in the Middle East threaten oil production and supply lines.

The 12-month growth rate in the consumer price index rose 2.1 percent in February, compared with 1.6 percent in January, Nothaft said, although most of the increase was due to food and energy prices. The core index rose 1.1 percent, slightly up from 1 percent in January.

Looking back a week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said demand for purchase loans was up a seasonally adjusted 2.7 percent during the week ending March 18 compared to the previous week. Applications for purchase loans were down 15.3 percent from the same week a year ago.

Requests for refinancings were up 2.7 percent from the previous week and accounted for 66.4 percent of all loan applications, the MBA survey of mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts found.

In a March 15 forecast, MBA economists said they expect rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans will average 5 percent during the first and second quarters of this year, rising to an average of 5.3 percent in the third quarter and 5.5 percent in the final three months of 2011.

The MBA forecast projects rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans will continue a gradual rise next year, climbing to an average of 6.2 percent in the final three months of 2012.

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