WASHINGTON – Fixed mortgage rates were mostly unchanged this week, hovering near yearly lows.
The average rate on the 30-year loan held steady at 4.50 percent, Freddie Mac said Thursday. It hit 4.49 percent two weeks ago, the lowest level this year. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, popular for refinancing, inched up to 3.69 percent. Last week it reached a yearly low of 3.67 percent.
Rates typically track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. That yield has been dropping in recent weeks based on weak data that points to a slower economy.
Low mortgage rates and falling home prices have done little to boost the troubled housing markets. Tougher lending standards and bigger down payment requirements have prevented many people from taking advantage of the ultra-low rates. Many people who can qualify are holding off, worried that prices have yet to bottom out.
Fewer people purchased previously occupied homes in May. Sales fell to their lowest level of the year. Since the housing market went bust in 2006, sales have fallen in four of the past five years and hit a 13-year low last year.
New-home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 319,000 homes. That's far below the 700,000 homes per year that economists say must be sold to sustain a healthy housing market.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that the housing market is dragging down the broader economy. For the market to recover, he said foreclosures must be cleared from the pipeline of homes for sale.
Most economists say home prices will keep falling through the rest of the year. Many forecasts don't anticipate a rebound in prices until at least 2013.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac collects rates from lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week. Rates often fluctuate significantly, even within a single day.
The average rate on a five-year adjustable rate mortgage fell from 3.27 percent to 3.25 percent, the lowest rate on records dating back to 2005. The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate loan rose to 2.99 percent, slightly above the record low of 2.95 percent.
The rates do not include the extra fees known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount.
The average fees rose to 0.8 percent from 0.7 percent for the 30-year fixed loan, according to Freddie Mac's survey. They were flat at 0.7 percent for the 15-year fixed loan, the survey found. The average fees for the five-year and one-year ARM were unchanged at 0.6 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.