Weak Economy Helps Keep Mortgage Rates Low

Freddie Mac released its weekly update on national mortgage rates Thursday morning, and for the second week in a row, rates are going down.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) shed three basis points over the past week, falling to 4.10%. Fifteen-year FRMs dropped four b.p., landing at 3.20%. In each case, these rates are the lowest we've seen since mid-June 2013.

Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARMs) took opposite paths, however, with 5/1 ARMs falling four basis points to 2.96%, but one-year ARMs gaining four b.p. and rising to 2.64%.

Commenting on the numbers, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist Frank Nothaft said in a statement that the easing in interest rates occurred in the run-up to the Federal Reserve's Oct. 30 monetary policy announcement which -- as anticipated -- failed to predict an imminent end to the Fed's bond-buying program.

Although the Fed "saw improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions since it began its asset purchase program," Nothaft was quoted as saying, regulators are nonetheless worried that home sales seem to be faltering of late. This fact, combined with persistent high unemployment, has the Fed feeling reluctant to begin raising rates and tightening up on the money supply. "As a result," said Nothaft, "there was no policy change [and this] should help sustain low mortgage rates in the near future."

The average on the 30-year loan has now fallen about half a percentage point since a hitting two-year high over the summer. The lower rates appear to be sparking a surge in activity by prospective homebuyers and homeowners looking to refinance.

Mortgage applications jumped 6.4% in the week ended Oct. 25 from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Applications for purchases rose 2% from a week earlier, while refinance applications soared nearly 9%.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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