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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 07/19/2012

Mortgage rates continue their descent

Mortgage rates sank to record lows again this week, marking the 17th consecutive week that the 30-year fixed-rate average has lingered below 4 percent. The 30-year fixed rate has been under 4 percent all but one week this year.

The 30-year fixed-rate average fell to an historic-low 3.53 percent, down from 3.56 percent last week and 4.52 percent a year ago.

The 15-year fixed-rate average remained below 3 percent for the eighth consecutive week. The average of 2.83 percent was down from 2.86 percent a week ago and 3.66 percent a year ago.

The hybrid adjustable rate mortgages also stayed below 3 percent again this week. The one-year ARM was 2.69 percent, the same as it was a week ago. It was 2.97 percent a year ago.

The five-year ARM dropped to 2.69 percent, down from last week’s 2.74 percent. A year ago, it was 3.27 percent.
A sign displays mortgage rates inside a Citibank office. (Justin Sullivan - GETTY IMAGES)

“With little signs of inflation and the Federal Reserve’s ‘Operation Twist’ keeping U.S. Treasury bond yields in check, fixed mortgage rates are remaining low and helping to stir the housing market,” Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a statement.

“Meanwhile, new construction on one-family homes rose for the fourth consecutive month in June to its strongest pace since April 2010 with builders restocking their lean inventories of new homes.  In fact, homebuilder confidence for the next six months rose for the third month in a row in July to its highest reading since March 2007.”

On Wednesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage applications were up significantly from a week earlier.

The Market Composite Index, which measures loan application volume, rose 16.9 percent and the Refinance Index rose 22 percent from the previous week, its highest level since mid-June.

“Refinance application volume increased last week to near peak levels for the year as mortgage rates dropped to a new low, driven down by growing concerns about the health of the U.S. economy,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s vice president of research and economics, in a statement.

Refinance activity continued to account for the largest portion of total applications, accounting for more than 80 percent.

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