WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates moved little this week after a months-long stretch of increases.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages ticked down to 4.44 percent from 4.45 percent last week. The benchmark rate averaged 4.14 percent a year ago.
Rates are relatively low by historical standards, but they have shot up from an average that remained below 4 percent last year. Mortgage rates rose steadily in January, February and early March, as interest rates generally increased in response to higher levels of government debt and expectations of rising inflation. Last week’s slight gain was the 10th increase in 11 weeks.
The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans slipped to 3.90 percent this week from 3.91 percent last week.
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The Federal Reserve last week raised its key short-term interest rate that banks charge each other, and rates could continue to climb. The Fed’s action caused yields to rise for U.S. Treasury notes, which could push the cost of home loans higher.
Bond yields fall when their prices rise. The yield on the closely watched 10-year Treasury note fell below 2.8 percent this week for the first time since early February. Investors have been switching into safer assets like bonds as trade tensions have escalated between the U.S. and other countries. The 10-year note was at 2.76 percent Thursday morning.
Higher mortgage rates have yet to dampen demand for homes. In fact the pace of Americans signing contracts to buy homes picked up last month, rebounding from a drop in January, according to data issued Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors. But mortgage rates have been rising as prospective buyers fight over fewer listings and as price gains for properties outpace wage growth.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.
The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. The fees on 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate loans were 0.5 percent, unchanged from last week.
The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 3.66 percent from 3.68 percent last week. The fee held steady at 0.4 percent.