Mortgage rates fall but could be headed up soon


(Freddie Mac)

Mortgage rates continued to bounce around, refusing to pick a course, according to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.

But Wednesday’s news that the Federal Reserve has begun to lay the groundwork for increasing interest rates likely will have an impact going forward.

Mortgage chart for March 20

For the past month, mortgage rates have fluctuated, rising one week and then falling the next. After last week’s uptick, the 30-year fixed-rate average dropped to 4.32 percent with an average 0.6 point. It was 4.37 percent a week ago and 3.54 percent a year ago.

The 15-year fixed-rate average fell to 3.32 percent with an average 0.6 point. It was 3.38 percent a week ago and 2.72 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed rate has remained below 3.5 percent since Jan. 16.

Hybrid adjustable rate mortgages were mixed. The five-year ARM average sank to 3.02 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.09 percent a week ago and 2.61 percent a year ago.

The one-year ARM average rose to 2.49 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 2.48 percent a week ago.

“Mortgage rates eased this week as housing starts declined 0.2 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 907,000, below consensus forecast,” Frank E. Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a statement.

“The rate on the 10-year Treasury note rose following the Fed’s announcement Wednesday afternoon and, if this holds, interest rates may begin to trend higher going into next week.”

Meanwhile, mortgage applications continued their decline last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. Applications have fallen in five of the last six weeks.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of total loan application volume, dropped 1.2 percent. The Refinance index fell 1 percent, while the Purchase Index slid down 1 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity declined for the sixth week in a row, accounting for 56.5 percent of all applications.

Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.
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Kathy Orton | March 19