Mortgage Rates Rise for 2nd Straight Week

Interest rates on U.S. 30- and 15-year mortgages rose for a second straight week this week, but the housing market remained healthy, with record sales expected for 2004, mortgage finance company Freddie Mac (FRE) said Wednesday.

Thirty-year mortgage rates rose to an average of 5.81 percent in the week ending Dec. 30 from 5.75 percent a week earlier, while 15-year mortgages inched upward to an average of 5.23 percent from 5.18 percent.

One-year adjustable rate mortgages (search) also rose slightly, to an average of 4.19 percent from 4.17 percent.

A year ago, 30-year mortgage rates averaged 5.85 percent, 15-year mortgages 5.15 percent and ARMs 3.72 percent.

"The 30-year FRM (fixed-rate mortgage) came in under 6 percent for the last 22 weeks of this year. As a matter of fact, mortgage rates in 2004 averaged around 5.84 percent, the second-lowest annual rate ever recorded in the history of Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey," Amy Crews Cutts, Freddie Mac deputy chief economist, said in a statement.

"Total home sales reflected those affordable rates by setting new record-breaking high levels for the year," she added.

Earlier Wednesday the National Association of Realtors (search) said November existing home sales rose 2.7 percent to a record 6.94 million unit annual rate. NAR said total sales in the first 11 months of 2004 have already reached an all-time record.

"Although mortgage rates are expected to rise in 2005, it will not be to a big enough degree to take much of the steam out of the housing industry," Cutts said. "Next year sales may drop off slightly from this year's banner pace, but the industry will continue to be healthy and robust well into the future."

Freddie Mac normally releases its weekly data on Thursday. It issued the report one day early due to early market closings Thursday for the New Year's Day holiday.

Freddie Mac said lenders charged an average of 0.6 percent in fees and points on 30- and 15-year mortgages as well as the ARM, all unchanged from last week.

Freddie Mac is a mortgage finance company chartered by Congress that buys mortgages from lenders and packages them into securities for investors or holds them in its own portfolio.