Mortgage rates crept up above 8 percent for the second time this year amid fears that the expanding U.S. economy may spark inflation down the road.

The average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages climbed to 8.06 percent for the week ending Dec. 31, up from 7.96 percent last week, according to a weekly survey released Wednesday by Freddie Mac.

It was the highest average rate since the week ended Aug. 13, when the average rate on a 30-year mortgage hit 8.15 percent. A year ago, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage was 6.83 percent.

Fifteen-year mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, also were up this week, with an average rate of 7.66 percent, up from the average rate of 7.57 percent last week.

On one-year adjustable-rate mortgages, lenders were asking an average initial rate of 6.56 percent, down from 6.64 percent the previous week.

Meanwhile, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America said that mortgage loan applications for the week ending Dec. 24 decreased 27.8 percent from the previous week and were down 27.9 percent compared with the same week last year.

UPCOMING EVENTS . . .

The deadline to advertise in the District of Columbia Building Industry Association's Membership Directory is Friday. The cost is $400 to $500 for members. For information, call Jane Raybould at 202-966-8665 . . . Vendors and service providers still can buy booth space at the Washington Metropolitan Chapter of the Community Associations Institute's 2000 Conference & Expo on March 18 at the Washington Convention Center. For information, call Crystal Danielson at 703-750-3644.

IN THE NEWS . . .

The Washington Building Congress released its 14th edition of "Codes and Regulations Guide," covering the cities and counties in the Washington area. Copies are $30 for members and $40 for nonmembers. For information, call 202-293-5922 . . . Chambers, a Baltimore architecture and interior design firm, placed 10th on Interior Design magazine's 1999 list of hospitality design "giants."

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