Mortgage rates jump higher; 30-year at 3.95 percent


In a Monday, Feb. 20, 2012 photo, a home is for sale in North Andover, Mass. Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes rose in January to the highest pace in nearly two years, a hopeful sign ahead of the spring-buying season. (Elise Amendola/AP)

Mortgage rates rose this week after holding steady for three consecutive weeks at an all-time low, according to data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.

The average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose to 3.95 percent, marking a 0.8-point increase from the record-low 3.87 posted each of the first three weeks of the month. The average 15-year rate also increased from 3.16 percent last week to 3.19 percent.

However, both averages are still well below the marks set at this point in 2011, with the 30-year a full percentage point below the 4.95 percent posted last year and the 15-year even further declined from its average of 4.22 percent – and according to Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist.

Several recent reports on the housing market indicate that the industry might finally have hit bottom. Existing-home sales recovered during the first month of the year after falling off to close 2011, according to data released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors.

Sales of previously occupied homes increased 4.3 percent from a downwardly revised 4.38 million in December to 4.57 million in January. That’s the fastest pace since May 2010 and 0.7 percent higher than the mark one year ago.

Nothaft said in a statement that seriously delinquent loans fell to their lowest level since 2009 and residential construction starts had also picked up steam in January.

The 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage declined last week to an averaged 2.80 percent this week, down from last week when it averaged 2.82 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.80 percent.

Related: Residential construction shows signs of life

Related: January existing home sales rise 4 percent

Related: Jobless claims remain at 4-year low

J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he runs the On Small Business blog.

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