Interest rates on U.S. 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose for the first time in five weeks, but a lack of data to gauge economic prospects continued to keep rates below the key 7 percent level, Freddie Mac said on Thursday.

U.S. 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 6.96 percent in the week ending Jan. 25, up from 6.83 percent last week, while 15-year mortgages rose to an average 6.44 percent from 6.31 percent.

One-year adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) rose to 5.10 percent, up from 5.08 percent a week ago.

A year ago, 30-year mortgages averaged 7.15 percent, 15-year mortgages 6.70 percent and the ARM 6.64 percent.

"There was no news this week that would drive mortgage rates in one direction or the other," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist.

"Therefore, mortgage rates didn't have much reason to move a lot, staying below 7 percent for the second week running."

The housing market has remained strong even as the economy struggles to recover from a recession that began in March and was further battered after the September 11 attacks in Washington and New York.

Nothaft said the housing market will continue to remain robust in 2002 with mortgage rates remaining between 7 percent and 7.25 percent.

Freddie Mac said lenders charged an average 0.7 percent in fees and points on 30-year, 15-year mortgages and the ARM, all unchanged from a week ago.

Freddie Mac is a corporation chartered by Congress that buys mortgages from lenders and packages them into securities for investors.